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10 years of Jogwa: Smita Tambe recalls one of the high points of Marathi cinema's new wave

Starring Mukta Barve and Upendra Limaye, Jogwa, directed by Rajiv Patil, is still recalled for its daring content.

Keyur Seta

Roughly a decade ago, Marathi cinema was going through a phase of transformation with a lot of experimentation in content. Director Rajiv Patil’s Jogwa (2009) was one of the films that emerged from this experimentation. The film also became a turning point in the careers of its lead artistes, Mukta Barve and Upendra Limaye.

Jogwa was not only appreciated for its stark portrayal of the evils of a rural society in Maharashtra but also won as many as six National awards — Best Film on Social Issues, Best Actor (Limaye), Best Music (Ajay-Atul), Best Male Playback Singer (A Hariharan) and Best Female Playback Singer (Shreya Ghoshal).

The story, briefly, is about a young woman Suli (Barve) in a village in Maharashtra who is forced to become a jogtin as per tradition. She has to live a life of servitude to the local deity and is given no right to marry or have a life of her own. Tayappa (Limaye), a man from the same village, shares a similar fate. As a male, he is called a jogta. The tradition forces him to give up being a man and dress up as a woman. 

Suli and Tayappa befriend each other and soon start finding solace in each other’s company. Eventually they fall in love, but this is taboo for jogtas and jogtins. 

Jogwa also saw actress Smita Tambe play the supporting character of Phula, from the same village. On the film’s 10th anniversary today (25 September), Tambe looks back at the importance of the movie. 

Smita Tambe in Jogwa

Tambe believes Jogwa had a big role to play in the new wave of Marathi cinema that was still in its early stages then. “Jogwa was a content-driven transformation," she said. "For a Marathi film to get six National awards was a big thing. We have seen that golden period of transformation then. And Rajiv’s own Savarkhed: Ek Gaav (2004) was a commercial transformation before.”

Patil went on to make yet another acclaimed film, 72 Miles: Ek Pravas (2013), in which Tambe played the lead role. That film, produced by Hindi film star Akshay Kumar, received three honours at the Maharashtra State Film Awards. Sadly, Patil died the very next month of cardiac arrest. He was only 40. 

Jogwa played a major role in Tambe's life, too. Before working in this film, she wasn’t sure which career to pursue. “It was my first film. So it was a turning point in my life. I was confused before that,” she said. “I had done television and plays. I knew I was doing something, but I wasn’t finding it interesting and wasn’t liking it. It is from here that I developed a keen interest in films and acting. Plus, what was special was that the film was by Rajiv Patil, my friend and guru.”

Tambe had done her MPhil and was pursuing a doctorate in Marathi folk literature. She might have ended up as a professor in some college. But she is glad to have done Jogwa which changed her life. “After doing this film, I felt this field is like a study and this is what I wanted to explore in life. I realized this is a never-ending exploration,” she said.