Mumbai, 30 Nov 2018 5:00 IST
The performances of Sonali Kulkarni and Sanhita Joshi and their bonding are what save the film from becoming a disaster.
With Madhuri, director Swapna Waghmare Joshi has had six releases since 2015. So far, all her films have had plots that pique your interest. However, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
This has especially been the case with her last three films, Fugay (2017), Tula Kalnnaar Nahi (2017) and Savita Damodar Paranjpe (2018). The last named was an adaptation of a popular Marathi play of the same name, but even that did not help the film.
The promos of Madhuri, the debut production of actress Urmila Matondkar and husband Mohsin Akhtar, gave the viewer a positive feeling. The presence of a top-notch performer like Sonali Kulkarni in the lead also raised hopes.
Madhuri is set in the picturesque hill station of Panchgani in Maharashtra. Madhuri (Kulkarni) runs away from her house one night. The police arrest her on the Satara-Wai highway after she hits a man with a rod. It is learnt that she took a lift from the man to go to her parents’ residence, but on the way he tried to get fresh with her.
Madhuri’s 20-year-old daughter Kavya (Sanhita Joshi) bails her out. She explains to the police that her mother has been suffering from retrograde amnesia ever since a disturbing incident took place. Madhuri believes the year is 1990. She does not remember she is a single mother or that Kavya is her daughter. In fact, she is unable to believe she was married once and then divorced.
Kavya struggles to take care of her mother along with her boyfriend (Virajas Kulkarni) and Madhuri’s student Rohan (Akshay Kelkar). She gets timely help from a psychiatrist (Sharad Kelkar) who is recommended by Madhuri’s doctor at the hospital.
The subject of retrograde or selective amnesia might not be a novel concept in Hollywood or even in Hindi cinema, but it is so in Marathi cinema. Madhuri is not just about the psychological condition of the protagonist. The film also tells of the journey of a mother and her daughter through ups and downs. Naturally, there are some touching moments.
However, like Waghmare Joshi’s previous films, this one also suffers in the execution. After establishing the subject quite well, the screenplay becomes uneven and remains so till the end. The writers try to induce some humour every now and then, but it falls flat most of the time. This is especially true of the character of Rohan and his surveys. He and Kavya’s boyfriend don’t serve much purpose in the larger plot either as both tracks are dealt with in a naïve way.
The film also suffers from some glaring logic gaps. For instance, it is difficult to believe that Kavya does not even know the name of her father, has never seen his picture, and has no idea where her grandparents live.
In another instance, a character is chosen to receive the National award for teaching. Then we see her receiving an award instituted by some nondescript college.
Then Madhuri is heard humming the song ‘Tanha Tanha’ from Rangeela, a film starring the producer Matondkar that was released in 1995. But the film tells us she thinks we are still in 1990.
The film has visually appealing and vibrant production design, but that does not always match the plot. We are told that the interiors of the house are made to look like the 1990s so that Madhuri does not feel out of place. But the interiors look quite modern.
The film also has an uneven background score, which starts to grate around the interval.
Madhuri rides entirely on Sonali Kulkarni’s able shoulders. Her performance makes the film watchable despite all the problems with the screenplay and direction. The plot required the actress to play two very different characters, one who is roughly her age and another much younger. The second persona needed Kulkarni to employ the right amount of chutzpah and she does that with aplomb.
Sanhita Joshi proves her talent in her debut film itself. She juggles with ease between playing immature and being someone who has to shoulder responsibility. Her chemistry with Kulkarni is the film’s strongest point.
Virajas Kulkarni and Akshay Kelkar’s performances are affected by their shoddy characterization. Sharad Kelkar is just decent. His character’s sarcasm and mannerisms constantly remind you of Shah Rukh Khan's in Dear Zindagi (2016). Subodh Bhave's cameo is wasted.
Madhuri could have made it a great four weeks for Marathi cinema after Aani… Dr Kashinath Ghanekar, Naal and Mulshi Pattern. A pity this opportunity was missed.
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