Review Hindi

Bhavai review: Pratik Gandhi excels in this uneven social drama

Release Date: 22 Oct 2021 / Rated: U

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The Hardik Gajjar-directed film is a one-time watch that unfortunately never realizes its potential to be so much more.

Director Hardik Gajjar’s maiden Hindi film Bhavai sees a political leader brainwash hordes of people in the name of religion and culture in order to get his way. Though the drama is set in a village in the 1980s, it couldn’t have been released at a better time.

At the core of Bhavai is the Ram Leela, the traditional enactment of the Indian epic Ramayana during the festival of Navratri. Bhavar (Abhimanyu Singh) heads a drama company that specializes in staging the Ram Leela. Along with managing the affairs of the drama company, he also plays the important character of Raavan. 

When the Bhavar and his troupe arrive at a village called Khakhar in Gujarat, a young local, Rajaram Joshi (Pratik Gandhi), who dreams of becoming an actor, is beside himself. Rajaram, who works at a flour mill at the behest of his father, a priest (Rajendra Gupta), quits the job and tries to land a part in the Ram Leela. He also sets his sights on the beautiful Rani (Aindrita Ray), who plays Sita. 

As luck would have it, Bhavar is unable to play Raavan because of health issues and Rajaram gets his big break. To see the son of a priest named Rajaram playing the evil demon king angers the young man's father but the aspiring actor doesn’t let go of the opportunity. While working in the play, he and Rani fall in love. But Rajaram has to undergo a litmus test with regard to his passion for the art and love for Rani. 

Bhavai is a love story cum social drama. The film takes us back to the days of innocent and pure love. It has an old-world charm even in terms of the music, which establishes the romance. ‘Bansuri’ and ‘Ishq Fitoori’ are the tracks that stand out. 

The love angle would have worked better if there was some depth to Rani’s character. We are given no account of her background. But despite that, Ray plays her part well as she succeeds in speaking through her eyes. 

Following Scam 1992 (2020) and the Gujarati web-series Vitthal Teedi (2021), Gandhi once again is in terrific form. He plays the evil Raavan on stage in an all-powerful way and is completely the opposite off-stage. The film also has good supporting acts courtesy Rajesh Sharma, Abhimanyu Singh, Gopal Datt and Bhagyashree Mote. 

Bhavai also tackles the issue of people not being able to differentiate a person’s on-stage character and his or her real self. Hence, they hate Rajaram for playing Raavan. Worse, they consider the real-life love between an on-stage Raavan and Sita sacrilegious. On top of that, a ‘religious’ outfit takes advantage of the naïve locals in order to further its own agenda. 

These aspects resonate even in 2021. Forget uneducated villagers, even well-educated urban dwellers are easily becoming pawns in the hands of politicians who spew hatred. 

But unfortunately, Bhavai handles these aspects superficially. The narrative during these parts isn't fleshed out and avoids going into hard-hitting mode. This results in the climax appearing abrupt and it fails to get the desired impact, despite the occurrence of an alarming incident. It seems either the makers wanted to play safe or were compelled to make some cuts because of the controversy that erupted roughly a month before the release date. 

Bhavai is surely a one-time watch that unfortunately never realizes its potential to be so much more. 


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