Debutante director Sandesh Kulkarni deserves rich accolades for “Masala” – a nice little vignette packed in a Marathi feature, adorned with all the hues and colours of life. Yes, several glitches prevent the work from raising the bar for its genre, but the metaphorical lushness more than condones the flaws in the method.
Kulkarni packs a neat collage in the central theme – the life story of Revan (Girish Kulkrani) and Sarika (Amrita Subhash), a remarkable couple which defies hardship and misfortune with grit and gumption to eventually build their haven of triumphs. Both Girish Kulkarni and Subhash breathe ample life into their parts to make the tale enduring, especially to those facing similar circumstances in life. “Make bliss the soul of your work, not the goal of your work”, the film conveys through the couple’s extraordinary strife.
An outstanding actor that he is, Girish leaves no stone unturned in highlighting the pathos and paradox of Revan’s life. But lately, we also see a marked tendency of playing to the gallery in his portrayals. This could well be the outcome of the stardom that he and his creative partner Umesh Kulkarni have deservedly earned for themselves. We are no doubt delighted to find the duo bask in the glory, but hope it doesn’t dilute their core (a fear that has grown in the fact that “Deool” lacks the depth of “Vihir”)
Amruta Subhash etches out a top-class performance. Unlike Girish, she avoids the temptation of adding that needless extra whenever opportunity presents, making her part rock solid in its credibility. Barring the couple of occasions where she unknowingly slips into near-chaste Marathi as opposed to the native twang that characterizes Sarika, she’s outstanding. It was heartening to find Dr. Sreeram Lagoo on screen after decades. Dilip Prabhawalkar, Dr. Mohan Agashe and Jyoti Subhash deliver in style, but Prabhawalkar’s eccentric and experimental scientist lingers a tad longer in memory, thanks to the actor’s innate skill as also the strong contextual connect. Shashank Shende leaves a significant impression even in his trivial part. Hrishikesh Joshi and Sneha Majgaonkar are equally effective.
Several scenes reflect the director’s command over the medium. He keeps humor centre stage throughout the film, precisely why the couple’s wanderings in search of livelihood and their accidental reunion with a long lost relative prove endearing and engaging. The offbeat narrative runs steadily on parallel tracks with minimal background score for company, consciously avoiding a linear pattern of one scene leading to the other. The cinematography is first-rate, another highpoint of the film. The frame showing Revan’s recurring nightmare of a truck swarmed with creditors haunting him in moonlit wastelands is sheer cinematic brilliance… a rarity in Marathi cinema. Such is the flair that it vaguely reminds one of Utttam Kumar’s incisive dream sequences from Ray’s masterpiece “Nayak”. Kudos to Kulkarni for this feat.
The wobbly editing, however, prevents the metaphors from making further inroads into the viewer’s sensibilities. Several support characters make interesting observations, one after another, that have a marked bearing on Revan’s conflict in life but the film needed a fine-tooth comb to craft a cohesive whole, however subtle one may have chosen to keep it. Wish someone could tell the editor “Masterji, har ek scene ek bilang chotaa kar do”
The takeaway of the film lies in its rich repository of insights –
Like identity is fundamental to existence, else a blank slate will be invariably abused…
Like faith is integral to business but only when you are sure whom to place it on…
Like every failure reveals interesting discoveries that enrich the litany of experiments, but only if one’s ready to start afresh, with an ecstatic ‘BOOM’ to celebrate the doom…
These insights stem as much from the real life story of Hukmichand Chordia of Pravin Masale fame as also from the lateral prowess of Sandesh Kulkarni, who just like the uncanny scientist in the film, is well known for his credence in experiments, albeit in the laboratory of theatre.
Marathi cinema needs more of Sandesh Kulkarnis to keep the flame of innovation ablaze amidst the hotchpotch that we are regularly served in the form of fake literary tributes and mindless spoofs. Waiting for his next one!