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Dashakriya review: This bold take on politics of last rites works only at concept level

Release Date: 17 Nov 2017 / Rated: U / 02hr 17min

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The film, starring Manoj Joshi and Dilip Prabhavalkar, could have gone beyond just a bold portrayal, if only the execution was better. 

Questioning the tenets of a god isn't easy in a religiously sensitive country like India. It is in recent years that we see films like OMG: Oh My God (2012) and PK (2014), that severely condemn the loot by self-proclaimed godmen. 

While some celebrated godmen promise to provide a better life to people (or pretend to do so), many others claim to have the powers to communicate with the deceased. They make a fortune by playing with the emotions of the gullible public, who desperately want their dead loved ones to attain moksha.

Sandeep Patil’s Dashakriya, which portrays this aspect of emotion and society, should be applauded for boldly criticizing the godmen business. Unfortunately, the film works only at the conceptual level. 

Dashakriya is based on the novel, of the same name, by Baba Bhand. In the village of Paithan, Keshav Bhat (Mohan Joshi), a brahmin priest, is a revered and reknown name in performing Dashakriya (last rites performed on the 10th day of a person's death).

He has no qualms in extorting money in the name of providing moksha to the deceased. He also regularly snatches ‘customers’ from poor priests like Narayan (Milind Pathak). This makes Keshav at the receiving end of Patre Savkar (Dilip Prabhavalkar).

The story of a school kid Bhanya (Aarya Adhav) also runs parallely. He studies in the same village, but spends a lot of his time searching for coins in the river, thrown along with the ashes of the dead.

His father (Milind Shinde) loses his job for often reporting drunk. Meanwhile, Bhanya slowly gets well-versed with the rituals of Dashakriya.  

The almost extortion that the priests resort to is shown in a powerful scene. As a family of a deceased approach the river, desperate priests rush towards them to be hired to perform the Dashakriya rites. They try out-perform each other in their attempts to get ‘customers,’ like one would witness at a marketplace.

In another instance, Keshav Bhat literally extorts money from a poor man by stating that his deceased mother won’t attain moksha if he doesn’t pay up more. 

Thus, the subject is established, quite boldly. The film is not an all-dark-portrayal of these priests though. The sub-plot of Narayan also provides a grim picture of how some are forced to woo customers since they are literally struggling to earn daily bread and butter.

However, establishing a subject isn’t enough in a feature film. Executing the story around the issue is an equally important task and this is where Dashakriya falters. The biggest issue here is the lack of proper flow in the screenplay. This results in the narrative randomly going serious and light-hearted at the same time. 

The bone of contention between Keshav Bhat and Patre Savkar also gets lost amid the sub-plots. On a couple of occasions, the two get involved in heated arguments, but the incidents don’t lead up to anything concrete in the storyline.

Moreover, the proceedings become complicated and questionable as the film nears the end, and even a bold twist in the tale doesn’t create the effect it should. 

The cinematographer has convincingly captured the village sequences. But the use of wide aerial shots on a couple of occasions should have been avoided, as it doesn’t go with the subject. The few songs used here and there don’t to impress you either. 

The performances fall in the decent category. Manoj Joshi is cunning and ruthless, which is exactly what was required. He should have avoided being too loud on a few occasions though.

Dilip Prabhavalkar is once again reliable, but his character isn’t given the importance it deserved.

Joshi and Prabhavalkar were also at loggerheads in Narbachi Wadi (2013). Thankfully, we are not reminded of that film here.

The child actor Aarya Adhav is dedicated in the difficult role of Bhanya. 

Milind Shinde perfectly suits the character of a jobless drunkard. But he tends to overact his drunkeness in a few scenes.

Milind Pathak succeeds in portraying the helplessness of a priest. The film also has convincing supporting acts from Uma Sardeshmukh and Asha Shelar. The actor who plays Keshav Bhat’s goon is just a caricature. More importantly, why would he give away his evil intentions by going around with a goon in the first place? 

Overall, Dashakriya could have gone beyond making a bold statement, if only the execution was better.