Seldom do good movies make it big commercially. The empty seats in the multiplex on a Sunday evening were testament to this reality. Although the movie stars well-known actors like Urmila Matondkar and Dilip Prabhavalkar with some recognisable faces, the lacklustre response is shocking. So, why does the movie talking about man-animal conflict and the life of a leopard mean so much to us? Here’s the answer…
During the dry season, a leopard falls inside a well near Junnar. The well is soon surrounded by curious villagers and the forest department is summoned to rescue the animal. Purva Rao (Urmila Matondkar), a wildlife biologist gets news of this and arrives at the scene. After the rescue, a small chip is inserted in the leopard’s tail and the animal is named Ajoba.
Thereafter, Purva and her crew begin tracking the beast. They find that his journey takes it through various destinations with high human presence, worrying them about the leopard’s safety. They begin following Ajoba, using latest technology to track down the beast and find out where it’s headed to. They set up secret cameras, which also captures footage of poachers, leading to more worries. Also, due to some leopard attacks in surrounding areas, the forest authorities are losing patience quickly and Ajoba’s chances of being alive seem bleaker each passing day. Where is the leopard heading to? What awaits its fate? Will it reach its destination safely? Find out the answers to these questions by watching the movie and seeing the story unfold in front of your eyes…
The movie is well-directed and crisp, the length of the movie being 115 minutes i.e. just less than 2 hours. It is based on a true story and has very minor additions to make it into a film. Urmila Matondkar, a famous Bollywood actress known for her performances in ‘Bhoot’, ‘Satya’, “Ek Haseena Thi’ and many more, is seen in a rare appearance in a Marathi movie. Compared to her other movies, this one was a cakewalk and Urmila plays her role beautifully. Oh, and despite her age, she manages to look gorgeous! The other actors play their part effortlessly as well, and the story unfolds at a wonderful pace. The movie manages to rake up various issues from habitat loss, human encroachment, limitations of the forest department, the way the media tries to change facts in an effort to sensationalise the topic and, the problems faced by a woman who follows her passion to the struggles of those working in the forest department. The movie deals with each issue sensitively and with an neutral outlook.
Seldom do movies manage to capture so many topics without losing track of the main plot. Ajoba manages to do it, despite the bad VFX quality of the leopard. For an audience used to watching Hollywood and Bollywood movies, it just doesn’t match up.
Watch Ajoba for its wonderful story and its beautiful presentation. It is serious, very close to a documentary and without all the drama. It is a brave attempt, especially in a time when Marathi movies are being commercialised and good movies are losing out at the box office.
Cast: Urmila Matondkar, Yashpal Sharma, Hrishikesh Joshi, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Shrikant Yadav, Om Bhutkar, Neha Mahajan, Ganesh Mayekar, Shashank Shende, Anita Date, Chinmay Kulkarni, Virat Madake and Anuya Kalaskar
Director: Sujay Dahake
Writer: Gauri Bapat
Image Credits: http://www.ajobathemovie.com