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Shaheed Bhai Kotwal review: Bland filmmaking ruins this interesting story of a freedom fighter

Release Date: 24 Jan 2020 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 10min

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Suyog Zore

Important events from Bhai Kotwal's life are glossed over while the film spends way too much time on needlessly melodramatic scenes.

Unless you are a history buff it is unlikely that you know much about Bhai Kotwal. Those living in Mumbai might be a little familiar with the name because of the Veer Kotwal Udyan (garden) outside V Shantaram's Plaza cinema at Dadar in central Mumbai.

Born on 12 December 1912. Vitthal Laxman Kotwal (fondly known as Bhai Kotwal) was a freedom fighter and social reformer. And Shaheed Bhai Kotwal is a film which chronicles important events in his life.

From childhood, Bhai Kotwal (Ashutosh Patki) had seen atrocities being committed by the country's British rulers. As he grew up, so did his contempt for the British. After completing his education, Bhai Kotwal began participating in activities to oppose the British government.

Since not much information is available about Bhai Kotwal among the general public, this could have been another fascinating untold story about India's freedom struggle. Instead, we get a very dull and lazy attempt at filmmaking by writer-director duo Eknath Desale and Parag Sawant. A weak screenplay and poor performances make Shaheed Bhai Kotwal an extremely boring film.

Bhai Kotwal's story had a lot of potential for an engaging film, but writer Eknath Desale fails to capitalize on it. Important events from the freedom fighter's life are glossed over while the film spends way too much time on needlessly melodramatic scenes that add nothing to the storyline.

For example, Bhai Kotwal and his fellow freedom fighters decide to stop a train carrying weapons for the British forces. Instantly, the scene cuts to them stopping the train by blowing up the tracks. That's it. There was so much potential in the incident to create suspense, tension and thrill; instead, we get a bland scene that evokes no emotion. And this is just one example.

Ignoring parts of Bhai Kotwal's life that could have helped to make a thrilling film, the writer and director focus on unnecessarily melodramatic scenes. In one scene, Bhai Kotwal is telling his wife how much he loves Bharatmata. That scene is followed by another where he again professes his love for India. Each scene is about seven minutes long. This tells you how lazy the writing of this film is.

The acting is just as disappointing. All the artistes, including newcomer Ashutosh Patki, act as if they are in a mythological play. It is very disheartening to see talented actors like Ganesh Yadav and Arun Nalawade completely wasted. Yadav hasn't even dubbed his lines. Rutuja Bagwe makes her debut in Marathi cinema with this film. She plays Kotwal's wife. Unfortunately, she also hasn't got anything substantial to do. 

The only positive aspect of this dreadful 130-minute biopic is the production design by Devdas Bhandare. The film successfully transports you back into the first half of the 20th century and believable production design plays an important part in this. But otherwise, even if you are a history buff, you would be best advised to skip this lesson.


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