Mumbai, 04 Jan 2020 7:30 IST
Sameer Vidwans creates a fascinating story that points to the chemistry and twists of national politics using the backdrop of a small village panchayat election.
It must be different to a child when its father or mother is the prime minister, or even just an MLA. These children are brought up, nay raised, as candidates of the future even before they are aware of their position.
So, what happens if someone else in the family nurses the same ambition? In a country where such stories are common, Sameer Vidwans's political drama Dhurala sheds light on the darker side of these political dynasties.
The film begins with the death of a patriarch sarpanch of the small village of Ambegaon. The family sits down to plan its next course of action. After all, power does not stay if not coaxed to stay. But when the centre collapses, the world cannot hold. Even as Dada (Ankush Chaudhari) is trying to establish his own rise, there are more cunning powers at play.
Dada faces two threats. His rival Harish Gadhve (Prasad Oak) and the MLA's son (Umesh Kamat in a special appearance) are aiming to upset his apple cart. When the MLA nominates the matriarch Akka (Alka Kubal) for the post of sarpanch and Gadhve decides to cash in on the resentment of the younger daughter-in-law Monika (Sonalee Kulkarni), the game is set. But as the family splits, wounds open up, egos are rustled and the home turns into a battleground.
Sameer Vidwans manages to stitch together a mosaic of fascinating characters, each fighting for his own reason, into a wonderfully woven story. Kshitij Patwardhan's writing sparkles with its fine lines, layering of human emotions, ambitions and a sprinkling of very local ethos that fits with the story.
The first half moves at scintillating pace, twisting and turning with each character discovering a new layer that adds to the political dynamics of the upcoming election.
These characters and their very human journeys are brought to life by a fantastic ensemble cast. Whether it is Ankush Chaudhari, Amey Wagh or the wonderfully underrated Siddharth Jadhav and Prasad Oak, the film's men are cunning, charming and comic in equal measure. But it is the women that truly take the stage. Whether it is Alka Kubal's naive but steely Akka or Sonalee Kulkarni's quirky, ambitious Monika or Sai Tamhankar's fiery Harshada (Burgunda), the film's women are its driving force.
Patwardhan and Vidwans build a narrative that does not delve into complex machinations for the sake of politics but for human ambitions. Envy, anger, frustration and dreams often mark the driving forces of these very political characters. It is what makes them intensely relatable. Their games of one-upmanship and complex plots to overthrow the other's campaign to win the position of sarpanch create moments of magic throughout the film.
That said, the film does lose its way in the latter part of the second-half. There is a point where the film begins to dawdle, perhaps owing to an over-indulgence in the characters. There are some stories that are not completely explored, perhaps owing to a desperate need to bring the larger film to a conclusion. This hurry seems to have taken some gravitas off the conclusion, which feels a tad too theatrical, and a little anti-climactic.
However, it is the journey of the family that is captivating, particularly the transformation of each character's arc that drives them to new levels. Whether it is Wagh's Bhavjya going from lovable friendly dork to manipulative schemer or Kulkarni's Monika rising from young sister-in-law to over-ambitious wife, these characters display traits that are attractive and repulsive in equal measure.
Through it all, the most sympathetic characters remain Siddharth Jadhav's Hanumantrao, the brawny simpleton who is used and discarded by everyone, and Tamhankar's idealistic Harshada, who understands her position as a pawn in the larger game. Ankush Chaudhari and Sonalee Kulkarni get the more fascinating characters while Prasad Oak and Amey Wagh stand out with their ability to perform the most villainous quirk with a disarming presence.
While Dhurala might not have the same tautness of Samna (1974), Singhasan (1979) or even Zenda (2009), it is an epic drama that paints a mosaic of a dynasty and the complex relationships that holds it together or causes its downfall. In all, this one is an interesting watch.
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