17 February, 2012
Gola-Berij ( Sum Total ) …A walk down memory lane with friends
How does one narrate a story of an entertainer in an audio visual medium? Tell it simply and it can attain an entertaining documentary feel like a “Harishchandrachi Factory”. Take it to a grand scale like some flamboyant personalities portrayed and we can get a “Bal Gandharva” but Kshitij Zarapkar has moved off this beaten path with “Gola Berij” and we get a narrative so fresh that the journey becomes a familiar walk down memory lane with friends you have known all your life.
Confused??? Don’t be…This is a movie experience like no other seen lately where the screenplay is firmly the star of the show. It’s an absolute work of art.
And this could only be possible because the person whose story it tries to capture is an entertainer whose footprint is virtually seen on all walks of art. Purushottam Lakshman Deshpande aka Pu La Deshpande or simply Pu La is a name that hardly needs an introduction. A powerful writer with an incisive insight into the heart of characters he created, a spontaneous wit that relied on the everyday happenings , he was also an accomplished musician who had a mastery over the harmonium, composed and arranged music for many a film. He faced the camera too and his sensitive funny portrayals are immortalized on film. When he moved on from cinema and writing he created a unique form of live stage entertainment called the “Katha Kathan” or storytelling and it is here where he made his greatest mark by keeping his listeners spellbound and in absolute splits. He was truly the favourite son of Maharashtra, the one who made her laugh; a true blue “Ashta Pailu Kalakar” an all rounder par excellence.
Kshitij Zarapkar’s vision is unique. The story is captured as a journey from his childhood onward and it is here that he interjects the story of Pu La the man and enriches it with the characters created by Pu La the writer. We meet these unique characters at different walks of Pu La’s life and the ride becomes a joyride into the familiar. Those who are not familiar with the literature or Katha Kathan of Pu La are going to have an experience that will definitely lack a punch but the director is rightly banking on the fact that how many such philistines exist? If they do, they would still enjoy the movie and the movie shall bounce them back into picking up Pu La’s vast literary contribution to read. Either ways it would be a good thing.
The second absolute winner here is the casting and the quality of the star cast. The who’s who of contemporary Marathi cinema’s acting talent finds expression in this vision. The main protagonists Pu La ( superbly played by Nikhil Ratnaparkhi) & his wife Sunitabai ( Neha Deshpande-Kamath of the winsome smile) humbly stand to the side like narrators letting the characters take center stage and frolic with abandon. And frolic they do…These characters seemingly meet the narrator at various times and mark separate milestones in the life of Pu La. They are largely drawn from his Sahitya Academy award winning work “Vyakti ani Valli” . These are the cameos that makes the film so delightful, each a seasoned performance and so true to the characters we all know from his writings.
Early childhood is symbolized with the arrival of Avinash Narkar as Hari Tatya, the person who looked and told the history of the land and Shivaji Maharaj in particular without any particular attention to tense or time.
The College days are captured in the company of the disparate trio of Bhaiyya Nagpurkar ( Sandip Pathak...apt) at the pan shop an outspoken deliberately uncouth Bramhin boy who is assumed to be a goon which he is not, Natha Kamath ( Prasad Oak) and the dashing Nanda Pradhan ( Subodh Bhave) . Natha the eternal lover spurned (Mukta Barve) on the grounds of caste (DRB: Deshastha Rugvedi Brahman) and Nanda the cursed angel whose life lacks for nothing material but conceals the tragedy of a run-away mother who abandons him and whose one prized memory is a gentle night spent on the lap of his college mate ( Bhargavi ). Each character is so rich that they don’t find enough screen time but they flit in and out of the frames leaving us with the sense of the familiar connect.
In Adulthood the writer encounters the most acerbic of his characters in Antu Barwa the old man from a village in Konkan, a veritable coconut whose tough hard shell hides a sweet meaty heart. This is a super fine character, one of the writers best and could only have been played by an actor of a fine caliber. Little wonder then that for the part we have Dilip Prabhavalkar. This is the performance that maintains the correct balance demanded of it, a tiny fraction here and there and the game would have been lost. It is spectacularly won here.
Kshitij Zarapkar comes on as Raosaheb one of the most flamboyant of Pu La’s characters who has a mouth like a sewer. This he himself admits quite candidly but a soft touch with his own stage workers who quite often ask him for money. The inimitable fan of the writer, Sakharam Gatne who lives by the written word of his hero. Satish Shah as 100% Peston Kaka accompanies us in an enjoyable train ride during the writers shift to Belgaum. Four other characters make their mark in a fashion like only they can . Namu Parit, the dhobi( washer man) with his own metric of right and wrong. This conscience less character is played with oodles of mischief by Sharad Ponkshe. The tireless do gooder Narayan ( Anand Ingle, excellent) who comes into his own in any function may it be a marriage, a funeral or a thread ceremony. Chitale Master ( Mohan Agashe, superb) the absent minded Teacher who takes genuine delight in his students by scolding, cajoling lauding and touching base with their families. Reminiscent of an era where the Teacher was called Guruji, one who occupied a position that even superseded the parents. But the high impact "lump in the throat" performance comes from Babdu ( Sanjay Narvekar flamboyant, over the top and perfect ) - the man who strayed from the path. The black marketer, cum bootlegger who fondly recollects the writers ( Scholar as Babdu calls him) moms besan laddoos and the one man in the entire class who truly regretted that “Ghosalkar Master died jhala” .
Prashant Damle, Pushkar Shrotri, Satish Pulekar, Pradeep Patwardhan, Jaywant Wadkar,Hemangi Kavi, Shivani Karadkar come in intermittently and play their parts but it’s such a rich diaspora of acting talent that a student of cinema should definitely take this movie as a curriculum to study the nuances of accurate & balanced character portrayal. Absolutely delightful and a definite must-see is this walk into the familiar territory. One cannot do justice to all the characters created by the author by having them in one movie but those who have screen time do full justice to it.The writer director liberally has drawn from all of the writers best known works like "Vyakti & Valli", "Batatyachi Chal", "Asa Mi Asa Mi", "Gun Gain Awadi", "Mhais", his cinema journey, his musical sojourn and story telling episodes making this narrative fluid yet rich. Yes, the Mhais episode seems to have been curtailed and left on the editing table but this does not overtly disturb the movie or the flow.
Vijay Deshmukhs cinematography and the attention to detail on the sets makes this film that gets introduced to us as a stage act by Manoj Joshi, such a different piece of work that the director Kshitij Zarapkar can stand up and take a bow for a job truly well done.