Mumbai, 07 Nov 2018 11:00 IST
Detailing Kashinath Ghanekar's active years, director Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande taps into the madness the actor brought to the stage with the many characters he played and the eccentricities he carried within himself.
Aani... Dr Kashinath Ghanekar explores the relationships of the popular late theatre actor Dr Kashinath Ghanekar with his first wife Irawati, friend Prabhakar Panshikar, arch rival Dr Shriram Lagoo, his fans and, above all, himself.
Director Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande takes on the mammoth task of bringing back to public memory the much loved Kashinath Ghanekar who was a dentist by profession and stage actor by passion.
Deshpande draws from a well of information presented in the book Nath Ha Maza, or This Is My Lord, by Ghanekar's second wife Kanchan. Marathi folk have a special place for the arts in their lives, and theatre occupies a sacred space, and this love is exposed through Ghanekar's story here.
Stalwarts like playwright Vasant Kanetkar (Anand Ingle), actor Prabhakar Panshikar (Prasad Oak), director Bhalji Pendharkar (Mohan Joshi) and actress Sulochana Latkar (Sonali Kulkarni) get a track each with the focus always firmly on Ghanekar (Subodh Bhave).
Bhave basks in the spotlight as the eccentric yet passionate Kashinath. He is present in every scene, and that can get tedious to watch and assimilate. But Bhave gives a new angle, dialogue, expression or simply a gaze to keep things interesting. Director Deshpande magnifies every applause and wolf whistle to present a larger-than-life biopic of a man who seemed to deserve it all. He also carefully brings to light all that was not right in a man many revered as a god on stage. However, his womanizing ways are mentioned but hardly explored.
Bhave as Kashinath Ghanekar narrates his own tale. His view of his unspoken feud with the upcoming experimental theatre actor 'Natasamrat' Dr Lagoo (played by a charming Sumeet Raghvan) is a bit contrived and seems, well, staged. For theatre lovers from the 1960s to the 1980s, this off-stage drama would have been more interesting than what played out on the rangabhoomi.
Ghanekar earned name and fame through his characters Sambhaji Raje, Laalya, Bapu and Gopal in the plays Raigadala Jevha Zaag Yete, Ashrunchi Zhaali Phule, Garambicha Bapu and Anandi Gopal, respectively. Dialogues from these plays are smartly woven into the narrative to keep it interesting, engaging and serve as a showreel for Ghanekar's dexterity.
The thespian's inner turmoil, stemming from his difficult relationship with his father and his dependence on applause and whistles for a high, is looked into with perfection.
Abhijeet Deshpande has done a fabulous job with the story, screenplay and dialogues. Among the dialogues that stays with you is when Lagoo, acknowledging the cold war between him and Ghanekar, says: “If everybody just reads history, who will create it?”
Otherwise, in general, Deshpande has avoided impactful one-liners, which seems fair for a film about theatre.
Kanchan’s track in the film is controversial but handled matter-of-factly. It feels like a justification for blind hero worship. The much younger Kanchan, daughter of actress Sulochana (played evenhandedly by Kulkarni) is enamoured by the phenomenon called Dr Kashinath Ghanekar. What is an attraction to a 'superstar' turns into an extramarital affair, much to the chagrin of Sulochana and Bhalji Pendharkar (played by the entertaining Mohan Joshi) who separate the lovers to test their affection.
Recreating an entire era for any period film is a colossal responsibility and art director Santosh Phutane does a gratifying job. However, Shivaji Mandir and the sets around look too sanitised to be NC Kelkar Road and Dadar of any period. Rohan-Rohan and Ajit Parab recreate some songs from Ghanekar's film career, including ‘Shoor Amhi Sardar’ and ‘Gomu Sangatina’, which are then picturized in black and white using slick editing by Apurva Motiwale and Ashish Mhatre.
Detailing the active years of Kashinath Ghanekar (1960 to 1980), Deshpande taps into the madness that he brought to the stage as the many characters he played, and the eccentricities he carried within himself in real life. In doing so, he presents a strong case for the popularity the actor would come to enjoy and lose in a span of just about 20 years.
Humility and modesty were not Kashinath Ghanekar’s strong suits, and this is evident at the beginning of his career on stage. It is not really surprising that more than alcoholism, it is arrogance that becomes the cause of his downfall. The hubris that got him recognition as the Maratha prince Sambhaji in the play Raigadala Jevha Zaag Yete (When Raigad Awakens) written by Kanetkar also sets him up for failure, humiliation and, eventually, oblivion.
Aani... Dr Kashinath Ghanekar is not a flawless film. Just like its central character it enjoys aggrandizement, falters through haughtiness, suffers multiple falls and redeems itself.
For someone living a stone’s throw away from the iconic Shivaji Mandir and its air thick with theatrical endowments, Aani... Dr Kashinath Ghanekar is a great primer to get acquainted with and interested in the legacy of the world of Marathi theatre. Subodh Bhave’s tour de force performance must not be missed.
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