wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
The length and slow pace of the film notwithstanding, Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Tukaram has an ensemble cast that bring their characters alive, and has an authentic 17th century feel that manages to draw you in. Just for these reasons, Tukaram is a film that is worth a watch.Read more
In spite of the fact that director Chandrakant Kulkarni has to his credit that guilty pleasure Bindhaast in his filmography, his latest film, Tukaram, didn’t spawn too many expectations for me, primarily because of the choice of actor to essay the role of one of the most respected and revered saints of Maharashtra. Jitendra Joshi, though not incompetent, has played too many character roles to really be taken seriously. However, his performance in Tukaram grows on you through the length of the film, ultimately leaving you with the feeling that he actually did a decent job.
Young Tukaram Ambile is his parents’ second child, his older brother being more interested in the ways of God than in earthly life. Because of this, Tukaram shoulders the responsibility of his father’s money-lending and trading work fairly early. The film goes on to chronicle the journey of his life, leading up to how he comes to be the mass-popular poet-saint that history now knows him as.
Right from the first frame of the film, the authentic feel and setting engulfs you. Not once does the film fall prey to ‘modern’ gimmickry in terms of technique. Even camera movements are gentle and stable, managing to draw attention to the detailing in the production design. The language and dialogue are an added bonus, contributing immensely in the audience vicariously experiencing life in 17th century Maharashtra.
Undoubtedly, the strength of the film is its performances. As mentioned earlier, Jitendra Joshi manages to breathe life into the character of Tukaram, easily making you forget some of the more bizarre character choices he has made in the past. Prateeksha Lonkar, who plays Tukaram’s mother, is a joy to watch, like always. Not since Reema Lagoo in the Rajshri films of the 90s has someone made for such a warm screen mother. Sharad Ponkshe as Tukaram’s father is excellent as well, managing to switch between being a warm father and businessman with ease. Veena Jamkar and Radhika Apte, playing Tukaram’s first and second wives respectively, perform well. Apte, in particular, handles the graph of her character with finesse. Her gradual shift from being young and innocent to being mature and tough is truly exceptional.
Yet, Tukaram is not without its flaws. Its most obvious problem is its length. Clocking in at two and three quarters of an hour, the film feels even longer because of its uneven, often slow, pace. Period biopics often find it tough to hold audience attention, and Tukaram falls prey to this as well. The pace slows even more in the latter half of the film, without truly contributing to the story of the saint’s life.
However, the biggest problem with the film is the graph of Tukaram’s character. A human being is most malleable when he is a child and his formative years contribute most to how he is as an adult. Starting off in his childhood, the film abruptly cuts to him being a grown man, thus robbing the film of the impact that the initial reels could potentially have had.
Furthermore, Tukaram’s adult life has two parts to it – one where he is a man with worldly needs and aspirations, and one where he has renounced materialism in favour of spreading, through his poetry, the word of God. The bridge between these two vastly different characters, the journey between these two extremes had the potential to be far stronger. While a lot of time has been spent detailing these two characters, the connecting link between them has essentially been condensed to just one scene. This scene, though impactful in isolation, is still not enough, not when the two characters are poles apart.
Despite its flaws, the film in its entirety makes for an interesting experience. Facets of Tukaram’s life that aren’t popularly known are brought forth, and the manner in which the cast of the film brings credibility to the characters they play is truly noteworthy. Thus, though Tukaram is far too long for its own good and takes its time to unfold, it still makes for a decent watch because of the performances and the detailed and nuanced production design, which has clearly been worked on with love.
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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