Mumbai, 14 Jun 2019 9:00 IST
Directors Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar have come up with a worthy follow-up to their wonderful Kaasav (2017).
Directors Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar’s Welcome Home revolves around Saudamini (Mrinal Kulkarni), who lives in Pune with her husband Sadanand and his mother (Seva Chavan). Sadanand is well-to-do and Saudamini, who holds a PhD, had also been a successful working woman.
Saudamini’s younger sister Madhumati (Spruha Joshi), who is in a relationship with Sameer (Siddharth Menon), is a successful television journalist known for exposing wrongdoers. Saudamini’s college friend (Iravati Harshe in a cameo) lives in the lap of luxury in the US.
The lives of these women would appear to be perfect to anyone who looks at them from the outside. And yet, they are all victims of male domination.
Saudamini is deeply affected by her husband’s atrocities. Unable to take it any longer, she leaves her husband's house to go and stay with her parents (Mohan Agashe and Uttar Baokar). The initial reaction of the parents, who belong to the same social strata, is to feel offended instead of trying to find out what their daughter is going through. This forces her to repeatedly ask a question: which is her real home?
Saudamini’s friend and sister are also silent victims of patriarchy (though the film focuses mainly on Saudamini) which pricks the bubble of their ‘perfect’ lives. And these three aren’t the only female characters to be at the receiving end of misogyny in the film.
Welcome Home makes a strong statement that successful women in rich households are not necessarily living progressive lives even in 2019. However, the narrative never gets heavy. It flows smoothly and subtly while the dialogues, which are real, deep and sometimes humorous, keep you attentive.
Despite the easy-going narrative, the film has the desired impact and you feel strongly for the protagonist. Nobody is shown holding forth on subjects like women's empowerment and patriarchy. The film makes its point through everyday conversations and visuals.
The focus here is not so much on the underlying subject as on the journey of the central character. Naturally, there is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of Mrinal Kulkarni, and she fulfils it with dedication. She lives the character in her every move and expression. Saudamini goes through a transformation, but it is so gradual and natural that you hardly realize it until it has happened.
The film is a great addition to the oeuvre of the director duo who have come up with simple yet moving dramas like Vastupurush (2002), Devrai (2004), Nital (2006), Astu: So Be It (2016) and Kaasav (2017) over the past two decades.
It is hard to find any major flaw in Welcome Home. You do wonder at times what kind of atrocities Saudamini had been facing from Sadanand, especially since it had been going on for years, but lack of clarity on that score does not reduce your sympathy for Saudamini.
Sumeet Raghvan’s character Suresh, a college friend of Saudamini and Sadanand, is one of the most lovable and selfless persons you will meet. He is like those protagonists from Rajkumar Hirani films — except Sanju (2018), of course. By portraying the character convincingly without turning him into a caricature, Sumeet plays a major role in the film creating the desired impact.
Subodh Bhave has just one scene but it is enough to leave a lasting impact. Seva Chauhan, who gave a memorable performance in the excellent Lathe Joshi (2018), is delightful as Saudamini’s mother-in-law who is affected by Alzheimer’s. Dr Mohan Agashe, Uttar Baokar and Spruha Joshi also turn in fine performances.
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