Review

Lathe Joshi review: This man-versus-machine saga achieves cinematic brilliance

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 13 Jul 2018

Keyur Seta

Despite the grim nature of the story, the filmmaker delights you with his storytelling technique.

A dialogue in BR Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957) goes: “Ameer aur gareeb ke beech kaisi ladaai saheb? Ladaai toh aadmi aur maseen ki hai [There can’t be a war between the rich and poor. War is only between man and machine]." This line rings continuously in your mind while watching Mangesh Joshi’s Lathe Joshi, which is not to suggest that there is any similarity in the story or treatment of the two films.

Lathe Joshi also makes you realize two things. First, the issue of humans losing jobs to machines holds relevance even 60 years after Naya Daur was released. More importantly, Lathe Joshi makes you realize that even an utterly realistic saga about a man losing his job can delight you with its cinematic brilliance.

Lathe Joshi is based in Pune in current times. It’s the story of Joshi (Chittaranjan Giri) who handles the lathe machine in a workshop. Despite the tedious nature of the job, he enjoys it. But one day, out of the blue, he and his colleagues are sacked. The owner decides to replace them with machines for better output.

Joshi is unable to share the news at home. He lives with his wife (Ashwini Giri), who takes catering orders to contribute to the family’s income. Joshi’s mother (Seva Chouhan) is visually impaired and bedridden. His young son has recently started taking up hardware repair assignments, working from home. When will Joshi share the bad news?

During the first few scenes, you wonder about the film's slow pace. But you soon realize this is actually one of its strongest points. It sucks you into the grim world of Joshi in such a way that it is tough for you to come out even after the film ends.

Such realism doesn’t make the proceedings depressing however. It merely helps the viewer to empathize with the protagonist and understand his helplessness. This has been achieved through some intelligent storytelling. For example, incidents like Joshi losing his job and later quitting another job are presented convincingly without the use of any dialogue.

But Joshi (in this case the writer and director) has saved the best for the last. The very last minute has the maximum impact through some incredible symbolism.

Perhaps the only weak link here is the sub-plot of Joshi’s son, which seems incomplete. This, however, isn’t a major negative.

Another noteworthy aspect of Lathe Joshi is the lack of a background score. This task is made possible by the brilliant sound designing by Piyush Shah. The sound of lathe machines, sirens and the door of Joshi’s locker in one scene deserve mention. The Swami Samartha chant plays in the Joshi home almost throughout the film. This chant effectively elevates the impact of a death scene. The impressive camerawork and editing sum up the effort by the technical department.

The performances have realism written all over them. Chittaranjan Giri is a perfect example of an actor getting into the skin of a character. Surprisingly, he has hardly opened his mouth in the film and yet spoken a lot through expressions and body language. He is flawless, to say the least.

Ashwini Giri succeeds in showing emotions like irritation and delight effortlessly. Seva Chouhan, as the ageing, visually impaired mother, is the surprise package with her super-cute act. Her rendezvous with the TV remote is too funny. Om Bhutkar’s bindaas attitude with a tinge of humour adds a ray of positivity to the film.

Overall, Mangesh Joshi has provided a cinematic treat on the issue of humans being replaced by machines.

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