Mumbai, 22 Feb 2019 6:00 IST
The Sandeep Kulkarni-starrer has a setting similar to his earlier Dombivali Fast (2005).
Director Nishikant Kamat’s debut Marathi film Dombivali Fast (2005) starred Sandeep Kulkarni in the role of Madhav Apte, a common man who lives a lower-middle-class existence with wife and daughter in the distant suburb of Mumbai.
Apte works as an accountant in a bank in south Mumbai and lives a life governed by routine, like plenty of other cityfolk. While he is not rich, he is not just content with his life, but is also strictly against any kind of corruption. He has no qualms waging a single-handed war against the corrupt.
The film made a great impact on the audience and became a major success at the box office. It also won the National award for Best Marathi Film. Kamat became a name to reckon with while Kulkarni became an overnight star and the tag of Madhav Apte has remained attached to him ever since.
Circa 2019, Kulkarni is back as a Dombivli resident, this time named Anant Velankar, in another first-time director Mahendra Teredesai’s Dombivli Return.
Velankar works in the public relations department of Mantralaya in south Mumbai. He, too, is an ordinary Dombivli resident living in a small flat with his wife (Rajeshwari Sachdev) and daughter. And once again he is honest to a fault.
Despite such stark similarities in character and setting, the makers have been telling us that Dombivli Return is in no way related to Dombivali Fast. But the similar titles coupled with Kulkarni’s enduring image as the common man makes it impossible not to recall the 2005 film while watching the latest one.
Given that, it becomes all the more difficult to accept some illogical behaviour by the protagonist. Velankar, seemingly intelligent, is also shown to be a blind follower, almost a bhakt, of the politician Dadasaheb. Even when Dadasaheb gets embroiled in a controversy, he remains unmoved, giving him a clean chit without a second thought. And then the film expects us to believe Velankar is an apolitical, concerned citizen.
The biggest blow for the film is when the most important moment of Velankar gaining substantial proof of Dadasaheb’s involvement in a murder arrives. The protagonist’s response to the event can at best be described as foolish. The different track on which the film rides from here is just unconvincing, even if you have not seen the 2005 movie.
Kulkarni once again fits the character of the honest common man. But it is not necessary that a person playing a similar character in a different film years later will come up with a similar result. Kulkarni performs his role well, but somehow the spark and the enthusiasm are missing this time. Amol Parashar, who plays Velankar's younger brother, is naturally talented.
Curiously, Dombivli Return was shot in Hindi and then dubbed in Marathi, though the Marathi version is being released today and the Hindi version will be out in theatres on 1 March. To find the dubbed dialogues not synchronized properly with the lip movement is just irritating. Worse, on a few occasions, Velankar and his wife’s Hindi lines have been retained as is, though why two Marathi-speaking characters in a Marathi film suddenly break out in Hindi is beyond us.
While you are left pondering about these lapses, the film takes you completely by surprise with its final twist. Unfortunately, instead of giving you a thrill, it only makes you wonder about the purpose of all that had gone before. Perhaps Dombivli Return would have worked much better as a half-hour short.
In the end, you cannot escape the feeling that the makers of Dombivli Return just wanted to cash in on the characters, setting and success of Dombivali Fast. They take you for a ride from CST to Dombivli in the second class during peak hours, a ride in which there is no joy, as anyone in Mumbai who has done the routine can testify.
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