Potential “influencers” ahead. AKA Spoilers.
I highly recommend that you watch this movie. If you do not want to be influenced with what I think, read this after you have seen the movie. You have been warned.
I cannot write the review of this movie without invoking three other movies which I have watched, enjoyed, and respected. Sardar (1993), Rang De Basanti (2006), and Lincoln (2012). All in good time, but first things first. I hardly ever say this; I highly recommend Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush (2015).
In recent times, this movie has to rank the highest, as far as performances go. Subodh Bhave, who plays Shri BG Tilak, brings to you, an outstanding performance. To play Tilak’s role is automatically a challenge. To see a historical character come to life, in the way that the actor has, is a revelation. It is a stellar performance and more adjectives will follow. None of us alive will ever know how Tilak lived. Of what we know of Tilak, Bhave does due justice. To glean a character from flat documents and give us a sense, meaning, and a visual is a daunting task. Bhave does it, apparently effortlessly. The actor may have gone through much effort; nothing shows on the screen. Here, I invoke the first of the three movies I mentioned above. In terms of a powerful performance, Bhave is akin to Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2012). As enraptured as you are, if every other scene is giving you goosebumps, and you know it has nothing to do with the AC in the cinema hall, that is a powerful performance. I cede, that part of it has to do with my love and respect for Shri BG Tilak.
The production quality is outstanding. I am glad that Marathi movies are embracing production quality as an essential aspect of film-making. Art direction, equally is worth all that meets your eye. When possible, light has been used to dramatic effect. Angles of the camera are often philosophical. While I may have missed things, there’s nothing jarring, in the creative department.
There is no reason you would not want to watch this movie in a theatre. I highly recommend it. Especially for the performances.
All, is not good, however.
And this ails the industry more than it ails this movie. Consider Sardar (1993) — a biopic on Sardar Vallabhai Patel. It starts with a contemporary event (just like in Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush, but gracefully gives way to the biopic and respects the audience, right until the movie ends). Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush insists on violating the biopic. That is jarring. If you aren’t alert, you will miss that you will see two movies for the price of one: one an extremely high-budget, production and performance focussed movie on the life and times of Tilak, and the other a low-budget, shoddily directed, low-budget contemporary confusion of the new generation. The second movie is embedded to insult you — the audience; shooting from behind Tilak’s shoulder. The difference in the quality of the two films indicates two directors (although I don’t know it for a fact).
I am not against non-linear presentations. In fact, I love them. I finally invoke the third film I mentioned above: Rang De Basanti (2006). Period-shifting was done tastefully in Rang De Basanti. It perhaps had to do with the reuse of the cast. Irrespective, the time shifts in Rang De Basanti were not jarring.
I have to make special mention of a few things about this movie. Veer Savarkar was badly cast. Swami Vivekananda could have been better. Khudiram Bose was wonderfully cast and cinematically presented. I would’ve like to see at least one shot in which “Lal, Bal, Pal” — the triumvirate of assertive nationalists — were seen together.
If this is the harbinger of what we will see in the days to come from the Marathi Film Industry, I am mighty proud.
Do us, one favour, ye mighty producers and storytellers. Spare us the social messages. The fact that you have to spell it out to us means two things: (a) you assume your audience is idiotic, (b) you have no faith in your craft.
Here goes my **SPOILER**
3-odd minutes before the end of the film, when Tilak replies to “what next” is the perfect time when the movie should have concluded. We don’t need a very well-defined, vocabularised, trivialised, dumbed-down version of Tilak’s legacy.
Dear director, from the moment when, I think, you should have shut down the film, (and you didn’t) you undid everything that could have qualified as the classiest film ever. It never is and never will be easy to capture the life of such a great personality; hats of to you, nonetheless
Watch this movie. If you love a performance, this is a must watch.