Currently, our scenes are filled with images of migrant workers coming out of our metros and walking thousands of kilometers to their villages in far-flung corners of India because of COVID-19. These were the outsiders’ who want to get rid of a certain section of the political class, especially in places like Mumbai. Some people are also calling this migration good loyalty. At the time when there was debate between us all over the country, at that time Bhonsle fit right. For the decay of Mumbai’s secularism, signaling itself to surround itself in a Mumbai outpost, it addresses the external issue on the ground.
At one end of the spectrum is Vilas (Santosh Juvekar), a Maharashtrian taxpayer who has political aspirations and who wants to capitalize on hatred for outsiders, mainly Biharis, to move forward in life. He truly believes in his own rhetoric and considers outsiders a threat. He is angry most of the time and that anger leads him to heinous crime. Then Rajendra (Abhishek Banerjee), a brother who makes the people of Bihar feel like him, has the same right to call Mumbai a Maharashtrian. He wants the North Indian youth to organize themselves and strike back at goons like Vilas, giving them a taste of their medicine. Somewhere in the middle is Bhonsle (Manoj Bajpayee), a retired constable, who is neither here nor there. Both Maharashtrians and Biharis were highly respected in his chaupal.
Bhonsle is a bachelor. He has no family and has given his entire life to the police. What he wants is an extension of service and for which he keeps on meeting his superiors and constantly making false promises. Like the silent heroes of Western countries, he does not speak much. Their brooding presence is enough to relieve stress. He does the same thing day and night in his life and even has a bad dream about pursuing the same monotonous existence. They never get to know the warmth of friendship, the warmth of the relationship and the change when a young nurse, Sita (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh) arrives to live next door with her young brother Lalu (Virat Vaibhav). He faints at home and this is Lalu who warns the neighbors. Sita helps him get a family remission at the working hospital. He starts conversing with them and they are nature in their presence. He was shaken enough by his plight to take action when disaster struck.
The Ganapati festival, called the key to the city’s harmony, is woven into the narrative by the director. What is happening in Bhonsle’s life, along with images of Ganapati’s idols and various aspects of the ten-day festival, has been captured. The initial battle between Vilas and Rajendra begins as Vilas wants a festival to be held only in Chawl this year without the participation of Biharis. The idol is brought only when Bhonsle falls down and Lalu has a hard time telling about his ancestors as festivities cause cacophony.
The film shows us that intolerance of divisive politics is slowly spreading in our society. It also gives us hope that if we are willing to accept the common humanity that binds them all, we can still avoid its consequences. The film flows at its own pace, although there could have been a boom in the first half. It is not without its faults – we do not know where Abhishek Banerjee’s character suddenly disappeared. Kudos to cinematographer Jigmet Wangchuk for his low-light photography, which clears the city of his false glamor dreams and humps you.
Manoj Bajpayee has given another acting masterclass through the film. He is getting better and better as he ages. He makes you believe that his character Bhonsle has seen a lot in life and everything he has seen has made him radically hardened. He is weighed down by all the ugliness he has seen and yet has a quiet power. He is not old and wears a uniform too, but the people of his chawl still respect him. Santosh Juvekar has also acted well as a confused youth who blames everything on outsiders, thanks to the flawed ideology in which he believes. We would love to see Abhishek Banerjee more. He also does a good job of his limited role. The two actors who have impressed me the most after Bajpayee are Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, and Virat Vaibhav, who play Sita and Lalu respectively. Ipshita makes a good performance as a good-natured girl, who helps her neighbor and has kinship with him. Virat is a natural in front of the camera and his reactions are both perfect shots, Ipshita and Manoj.
The film, which has been winning plaudits on the festival circuit for a long time, presents a true picture of the poisonous environment we are living in. Let’s hope the audience doesn’t turn away from its message …
|Cast:||Manoj Bajpayee, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh, Santosh Juvekar, Virat Vaibhav, Abhishek Banerjee|
|Duration:||2 hours 12 minutes|