It is tough to review a film which allows you to come out of the theatre with a smile and you try to point which aspect made you break out into that emotion. There is nothing negative about the smile – it comes out of the reality that Marathi films these days are ready to take on a good subject and churn out an excellent film. Humour is the new weapon to reach the masses it seems. ‘Popat‘ is the recent example. And now it is Aditya Sapotdar’s third offering ‘Narbachi Wadi‘, based on a Bengali play Shajjano Bagan by Manoj Mitra we see this unusual coming together of two languages (and culture in some ways) who probably share more than just their Devnagiri past.
Director: Aditya Sarpotdar
Actors: Dilip Prabhavalkar, Manoj Joshi, Vikas Kadam, Kishori Shahane, Jyoti Malshe, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi, Kamlakar Satpute, Bhalchandra Kadam
Music: Mangesh Dhakade
Screenplay, Dialogues and Lyrics: Guru Thakur
Story based on Shajjano Bagan, a play by Manoj Mitra
Set in Konkan of probably 40s or 50s (a gorgeous setting, we say), you meet the pure-evil Khot (a sort of zamindar), Rangarao (Manoj Joshi), a womanising and land-grabbing landlord whose eyes are set on Narba’s (Dilip Prabhavalkar) wadi or grove. This grove is a paradise on earth with coconut trees, betel nut palms, bananas and the works – soothing in every way. Rangarao threatens Narba but a dreaded dacoit who owns Narba his life, threatens the Khot to keep away from the old man and his grandson. The shock kills the senior Khot and in comes his son Malharao (Joshi again) and continues his father’s obsession of grabbing Narba’s wadi 20 years on. But unlike his father, Malhari is ‘more intelligent’ so to speak. He makes Narba sign a bond stating that if Narba died first, the grove comes to the Khot, but if the Khot dies before, the bond is annulled and the grove comes back to Narba. This is when Narba is emotionally weak after throwing his innocently conspiring grandson Pandhari out of the house. The Khot also makes sure that the old man gets Rs 150 each month as maintenance, out of ‘goodwill’. What happens next is the Khot’s schemes to see if the old man dies and Narba’s unusual tryst with life.
Yes, the era does not belong to us and so we have to rely on the maker to recreate the same. The story is based on a Bengali play and we rarely see literature and cinema merging successfully these days. And it is directed by a young director whose previous films are not from the same genre. Irrespective of these points, Narbachi Wadi is a winner for cinema-goers and it is surely a film to go for a repeat viewing. The main topic of greed and how you get what you sow is universal and has been handled with great care. And the uphill task of adapting a Bengali tale to be set in a Konkan village should be credited to Guru Thakur who has also written the screenplay, dialogues and lyrics. He uses his background to the fullest (he himself comes from Konkan) and what you see and hear in terms of story, dialogues and lyrics is a totally Konkani tale, straight from the Wadi. The characters are the ones you would normally see and hear even today if you set foot on the coast. Those familiar with the Konkani people, their language and speaking style know how they resemble a jackfruit in terms of behaviour. Their manner of speaking might sound direct, yet with some shrewdness. But they mean no harm. And that is how you see them in the film.
I feel director Aditya Sarpotdar is an old soul in a young man’s body. The reason is the handling a period film with such care and sensibility is not an easy task. Aditya has surprised us on this point as Narbachi Wadi comes out a beautiful cinematic poetry. He does keep the film’s tempo quick but allows you to breath in Konkan’s beauty and story. And he is supported well back his technical team – a blessing indeed. Right from Rahul Jadhav’s mesmerising cinematography capturing the beauty of a Konkan village to the spiffy editing by Faisal and Imran Khan and costumes by Purnima Oak bringing the period charm precisely on the screen, you actually can feel being in a village on the coast, also courtesy Sheetal Kanvinde and Mahesh Kundalkar. Mangesh Dhakade is the guy who needs a pat on his back for two beautiful songs.
Story checked. Technical aspects checked. Acting…. the battle of whether you need a star or an actor to sell your film probably does not come in Marathi cinema. Here prolific actor is THE star and attracts as much attention as your regular Joe Khan. For Narbachi Wadi, the actors have allowed the characters to overshadow them. Dilip Prabhavalkar as the old Narba, a typical Konkani man who professes he wants to die but lives and has a saying on everything, is outstanding. You love his take of a man who loves his grove, seems like he has given up a fight against the Khot but his situations work in the opposite direction and is very pragmatic when dealing with things. Right from his speech to his minute body language, he embodies that old Konkani farmer. In the film, he teams up with Vikas Kadam, his co-star from the hugely popular TV serial Gangadhar Tipre. In this flick too, Vikas comes out as innocent, sometimes rather stupid but lovable. Both of them create such lovely ruckus that you enjoy it all the time. Manoj Joshi is the one actor with maximum pressure as he is both the older ruthless Khot and the son who tries to fulfill his father’s dream but almost gets bedridden due to it. Manoj does full justice to being evil. He manages to match Prabhavalkar, though the senior actor has an upper-hand. Sarpotdar should be praised for collecting a cast who support his film via superlative performances, be it Kishori Shahane as the Khot’s rather silly wife who wants to show off her wealth but can’t, Ambarish Deshpande as the Khot’s no-good son, Nikhil Ratnaparkhi as the Khot’s advisor who bumbles around, Jyoti Malshe as Narba’s grand-daughter in law or Kamlesh Satpute, Atul Parchure and Bhalchandra Kadam. They are a delight to watch.
A film like Narbachi Wadi is difficult to review, because there is very little to denounce it. It is a sweet film made from the heart and it has a simple message – greed never pays. The chances of coming out with a smile on your face are high. So do watch it and let us know if out prediction is true.
Also see our interview with Dilip Prabhavalkar on the same at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdacM-QriPM