wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?) - or better yet, satellite broadcast
Produced by NFDC and written, directed & edited by Priya Krishnaswamy, Gangoobai is film that has some genuine emotions at its core. However, the film in itself struggles to make its point. It tries more than a tad too hard to make you feel for the central character. Some poorly written characters and situations, mediocre performances make things worse for this film that is also weak technically.Read more
There is no easier way to say this, so I’m just going to say it; I was extremely disappointed with Gangoobai. An NFDC-produced film, made on a script that was an NFDC Screenwriters’ Lab selection in 2009 and developed further thereon, I expected it to be extremely strong at least on the script level. There is no denying that the film has heart and soul. It talks about hope and what it means for a human being, about how materialistic life has become today and about how human spirit still has the power to triumph over the greatest of travails. However, the film suffers from writing that can only be described as naïve.
The film follows the journey of an aging bai (maid-servant) who lives in sylvan Matheran, a hill-station not far from Mumbai. In the course of her work, she chances upon something that entices her heart beyond limits of rationality. Spurred by a burning desire to possess it, she toils hard for four years before managing to accumulate enough money to buy it. Then, she sets on a journey to Mumbai to purchase the said item, expecting to return within a day. However, the journey doesn’t quite go as planned.
As I mentioned earlier, the naivety of the film’s writing is something that I still can’t get over. The attempt to evoke emotions with regard to Gangoobai is so evident that it often feels manipulative. The film doesn’t try and tug at your heartstrings; it tries to manhandle them. Also, every single character in the film is far-fetched; there isn’t a hint of realism to their actions, their words or their reactions to Gangoobai. No matter how they seem on the exterior, the manner in which they instantly treat Gangoobai like the centre of the world continuously rings false.
Gangoobai herself seems to have only one defect – her obsessive behaviour regarding possessing something that she doesn’t really need. Apart from that, she is the perfect human being - hardworking, resourceful, talented, open-minded, intelligent, charming and many more qualities that make her exceedingly loveable. Cute, really, but distinctly unreal. The only realism comes from some of the tiny side characters - a rich Sindhi woman who believes in unquestionable superiority and an obsessive boyfriend who doesn’t respect his celebrity girlfriend’s work. Sadly, they don’t really have much to contribute to the film any way.
The film also suffers technically - inconsistent lighting, poor framing and choppy editing keep rearing their heads through the film. The bland background score does nothing to help it. Also, I was consistently bothered by the strange mix of Marathi and Hindi that the characters speak through the film. Why would two Maharashtrians switch to Hindi mid-sentence? Why would a non-Maharashtrian attempt to speak in Marathi with a character who very clearly understands Hindi? Yes, real life in India is multi-lingual, but there should be a certain use of logic to determine which language a character will speak and when.
Of the cast, only veteran actress Sarita Joshi in the title role does any justice to her character. She has clearly worked hard on the character, and she often manages to elicit a smile. Purab Kohli’s turn as a love-struck middle-class man appeals in bits, but is inconsistent. Mita Vashisht is endearing, but her performance strikes many a false note. Raj Zutshi as the fashion designer is over-the-top, but when is he not? Nidhi Sunil as the supermodel with a heart of gold struggles with her part. The film has been written, directed and edited by Priya Krishnaswamy – the film is quite literally her baby. While I’d laud her for the emotions that form the foundation of the film, I’d also have to be honest and say that the film rarely, if ever, rises above mediocrity in any department. I’d still go to watch her next film because she is certainly a brave director for choosing to make the kind of film she has. I’d also urge those who have a financial stake in cinema – producers and audiences – to support films like Gangoobai. But Gangoobai as a film in itself is not really a must-watch.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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