Mumbai, 28 Feb 2020 16:00 IST
The film follows the conventional route of a sports drama without much success. The director should have controlled his urge to add an unnecessary romantic track to the movie.
Sujay Dahake's Kesari (2020) is your typical sports drama about a passionate wrestler who wants to win the Maharashtra Kesari title and goes over typical hurdles like the disapproval of his father and villagers, lack of money, and so on in a bid to reach his goal. Think of any sports drama film trope and you will find it here.
The film starts with our hero Balram (Virat Madake), who is getting ready for his first match but is dragged out of the ring by his father (Umesh Jagtap). The conflict is established. So Balram participates secretly in a small wrestling competition and wins, not knowing that it is one of the qualification rounds for the Maharashtra Kesari.
Now the big question facing him is finding a place to train and the money to pay the monthly training cost of nearly Rs50,000.
Garage owner Vastaad Mehman (Mahesh Manjrekar), who used to be a champion wrestler in his heyday, comes to his rescue and takes him on as his disciple. Thus begins Balaram's unorthodox training regime, which continues till just before the climax.
Some of the training techniques shown just don't seem to make sense, like when Mehman makes Balram run from Kolhapur to Ratnagiri just days before the actual competition begins.
The screenplay by Niyaz Mujawar is flat. Once the conflict is established, the film follows a set pattern with no deviation till the climax. Since the only struggle Balram faces is a physical one, the film fails to engage the viewer on an emotional level.
Another major drawback is the caricature-like characters. Kesari has too many of them. Beginning from Balram's parents, played by Jagtap and Chhaya Kadam, to his friends played by Nachiket Purnapatre and Satyappa More, all look and act like caricatures. Who are his friends? What do they do for a living? Don’t they have their own lives? These age-old questions that one harbours for every sidekick of every hero remain unanswered in Kesari as well.
Manjrekar gets the most screen time after Madake, but his character is underdeveloped. When you have to establish a character as an unquestionably skilled person, be it in any sport or art, you do so by actually showing their skill and not just by other characters talking about his greatness. This is where Manjrekar’s character loses out.
Dahake never shows us the great wrestler Vastaad Mehman. We just have to take his word for it. The one scene where we see him actually wrestle is too short and shoddily edited. Probably to hide Manjrekar’s inability to perform the stunts needed. Since it comes across as fake, viewers are unable to believe that this out-of-shape guy was a champion wrestler once.
The film has two female characters: Balram’s mother and his love interest (Rupa Borgaonkar). They are defined only by their relationship with Balram; we know nothing else about them. One wonders why these actresses accepted such roles. The bigger question is why would one even write such one-dimensional characters which have no significance for the plot?
Dahake could have easily done away with both these characters and it would have made no impact on the story. On the contrary, the narrative might have been a lot tighter.
This is Borgaonkar’s debut in Marathi cinema. In the entire film, she has only three dialogues, none of which is beyond a sentence. And this is no exaggeration. This reviewer actually counted them. She only appears on screen to wash clothes and ogle at the hero. With only 10 minutes of screen time, she is credited as the female lead.
Vikram Gokhale plays an insignificant role as Balram's grandfather, who lost the Maharashtra Kesari title 50 years ago. But the villagers still mock the family and call them cowards.
Virat Madake has done justice to his character. He has also worked hard on his physique. But the script doesn’t allow him to do much more than that.
The two aspects of the film that stand out are its cinematography by Sandeep Yadav and the music by AV Prafullachandra. The film has been shot in the monsoon with Yadav capturing the beauty of Kolhapur on camera. The film looks good on the big screen.
The film has four songs of which two are rap numbers and two are romantic. Though the romantic songs hamper the pace of the film, they have been beautifully composed and are worthy of repeat listening.
The movie also suffers from some amatuerish editing by Dahake himself. There are a few scenes in the film which have been cut abruptly. Also, he has focused too much on the slow-motion training montages.
Overall, the search for a genuinely good sports drama in Marathi cinema continues.
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