Review Marathi

Me Vasantrao review: Vasantrao Deshpande biopic is a musical joyride 

Release Date: 01 Apr 2022 / Rated: U / 02hr 55min


Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

Classical singer-actor Rahul Deshpande gives a dazzling performance in this film by filmmaker Nipun Dharmadhikari.

Marathi cinema has had two films based on the lives of classical singers in the span of exactly a year — Chaitanya Tamhane’s The Disciple (2021) and now Nipun Dharmadhikari’s Me Vasantrao. Apart from the fact that the former film is a work of fiction and the latter is a biopic, they are also like chalk and cheese in terms of storyline and, more importantly, treatment. 

But they share one aspect — they star a classical singer who gives a tremendous performance. 

Me Vasantrao, which is based on the life of legendary classical singer Vasantrao Deshpande, sees his grandson Rahul Deshpande essay the titular artiste.  

The film begins just before the birth of Vasantrao in 1920 in a village in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region. Soon after he is born, his jealous aunt tries killing him because she is childless. The infant is saved in the nick of time by his mother, known as Tai (Anita Date), who takes the child to her brother's home in Nagpur to ensure his survival. Vasantrao’s father doesn’t accompany them. 

As Vasantrao grows older, he realizes he possesses a natural talent for singing. A neighbourhood musical guru (Sarang Sathaye) urges Tai to let Vasantrao learn music. She agrees after some initial hesitancy. Vasantrao’s lifetime relationship with classical music begins and he encounters various hurdles but he receives tremendous help from his multi-talented friend Purushottam Laxman Deshpande aka PL Deshpande (Pushkaraj Chirputkar). 

Generally, biopics about great personalities depict their journey to the top, their subsequent experiences and the protagonist’s final days. As far as Marathi cinema is concerned, we saw this quite recently in Mahesh Manjrekar’s charming biopic of PL Deshpande Bhaai: Vyakti Kee Valli (2019)

Pushkaraj Chirputkar and Rahul Deshpande in Me Vasantrao

But Dharmadhikari takes a different route while narrating the story of Deshpande. The film explores the struggle the protagonist faces at various stages in his life. The film’s triumph lies in how it portrays the dilemma of an artist in choosing between a steady job and art. This is sure to connect with youngsters in today’s times as there are many out there who earn a living but are not fulfilled.

However, this doesn’t mean that the film is sad or overly serious. In fact, it’s an entertaining ride with frequent doses of subtle humour. This is achieved the most through the character of PL Deshpande. Apart from making the character believable, Chirputkar also impresses with his natural comic timing. 

The three-hour runtime of the film is completely justified for it explores Deshpande’s journey right from his childhood in an engaging manner. The makers give a good amount of screen time to the adolescent version of the protagonist while Rahul enters much later than you expect. Gandhar Joshi, who plays the adolescent Vasantrao, is also impressive. 

Dharmadhikari has so far only made films set in contemporary times. But looking at Me Vasantrao, it doesn’t feel this is his first period film. He shines the most in the portion where the classic musical play Katyar Kaljat Ghusli is recreated [where Vasantrao played the character of Khansaheb]. 

It is a must for such films to be top-notch on the music front and the composers Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki and Rahul don't disappoint. The latter also dazzles as a singer and this is no surprise. 

The production design and the costume department also make the bygone era appear real. 

Me Vasantrao boasts fine performances from other actors too. Anita Date has a meaty role and she maintains a fine balance between being tough and emotional. Her character is as memorable as Deshpande’s. Amey Wagh, as Master Dinanath Mangeshkar, and Kumud Mishra and Sarang Sathaye also give earnest performances. 

The one complaint with Me Vasantrao is the film could have focused a bit more on the central character’s success. After all, it came about after so much struggle. His contribution to the field of cinema should have also been shown in a bit more detail as that would have suited the medium.

 

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