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Panghrun review: A moving but occasionally unsubtle period drama

Release Date: 19 Oct 2019 / Rated: U / 02hr 11min

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The Mahesh Manjrekar film boasts of fine performances by Gauri Ingawale, Amol Bawdekar and Rohit Phalke.

Kaksparsh (2012) is one of Mahesh Manjrekar’s finest films. Based on the story of the same name by Usha Datar, the film is set in the pre-Independence era and revolves around the patriarch of an upper-caste family in a Konkan village, Hari-dada (Sachin Khedekar).

When Hari-dada’s younger brother dies immediately after marriage, his wife Uma (Priya Bapat) is forced to live a life of isolation and shame as a widow. She is also deprived of physical intimacy. After Hari-dada comes to her rescue, Uma’s respect and affection for him slowly transform into love.

Manjrekar’s latest offering, Panghrun, is set in the same period and place and also revolves around a sexually frustrated young widow. But the film is inspired by a different story, one written by the celebrated writer BB Borkar.

Lakshmi (Gauri Ingawale) is a fun-loving, chirpy young girl, but her life is anything but sunshine and rainbows as she has been consigned to a life of widowhood since she was 14. After remarriage for her kind becomes socially sanctioned, Gauri is wed to the widower Anant aka Antu Guruji (Amol Bawdekar), who is old enough to be her father.

Antu Guruji is highly respected in his village for his vast knowledge in matters of religion and music and his kind-hearted nature. However, as he still deeply loves his late wife, he is unable to open his heart to Lakshmi. This frustrates the teen who catches the eye of Gurují's disciple Madhav (Rohit Phalke).

The major difference between Kaksparsh and Panghrun is that the latter revolves around a widow who is remarried.

Manjrekar and Ganesh Matkari’s screenplay instantly hooks the viewer like that of Bhaai: Vyakti Kee Valli (2019), a period film helmed by the former and written by the latter.

Karan B Rawat’s camerawork captures the beauty of the Konkan.

Borkar’s story has a number of dramatic and, at times, thrilling moments which are treated well by the director. Two situations stand out; one where the meaning of the title is made clear to the viewer, the other involving the final moments between Antu Guruji and Gauri. The finale leaves the viewer feeling deeply for the couple.

The decision to avoid casting stars works well here. Ingawale, in her first role as a grown-up, starts off her journey on a winning note. She is top-notch during the dance sequences too.

Bawdekar successfully conveys the kind and pious nature of Antu Guruji in every frame. The moments when he hides his inner sorrows and still manages to smile are moving. Phalke's supporting role is a difficult one but he delivers a fine performance.  

Antu Guruji’s occupation provides scope for the inclusion of great music in the film, and there are various impressive kirtans, each one a delight. But the total number of songs could have been reduced.

The one element that hampers the film is the sequences where Madhav's attraction to Gauri, and vice-versa, is depicted. This is presented in a far too obvious manner, which doesn’t jell with the realistic nature of the film. It would have made more impact if it were done in a more subtle way.

This subtlety, or lack thereof, also differentiates Panghrun from Kaksparsh. But it doesn’t stop the former from being an impressive and emotional period saga.

Panghrun was screened at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2018 and at the Bangalore International Film Festival in 2020. It is being released in theatres today.