Review Marathi

Yes, I Am Mauli review: Pandharpur pilgrimage deserves a better documentary

Release Date: 27 Nov 2018 / 38min

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Mayur Lookhar

Suhas Jahagirdar’s cell-phone effort can at best be termed amateurish.

Faith holds great significance in a multicultural country like India. It can soothe a battered soul.

Question faith, however, and devotion can quickly turn to fanaticism. The knives will be out in a flash, to 'protect' the faith.

So one is always walking a tightrope when critiquing any content with a religious theme. Who can say how an innocuous comment may be construed?

Suhas Jahagirdar, a former producer in a television channel, has tried to capture the Ashadhichi Wari, the annual spiritual journey that thousands of warkaris, or pilgrims, undertake on foot from Alandi near Pune to Pandharpur in Solapur district, a distance of about 250 km. And he has done it on just a mobile phone.

While devotional channels have a dedicated following in India, it is hard to recollect any filmmaker or channel documenting this pilgrimage. Perhaps the faithful are familiar with it, but for this reviewer at least, Jahagirdar's documentary, Yes, I Am Mauli, was the first glimpse of this annual event.

The word 'mauli' literally means 'caring mother', but in the pilgrimage it is used to refer to Vithoba, the presiding deity in Pandharpur, who, though manifested as a man, possesses the qualities of a caring mother.

But even for someone who is clueless about the landmark pilgrimage, Jahagirdar’s 38 minute film comes across as far-from-ideal.

In the age of advanced and affordable technology, the mobile phone has spawned many filmmakers, citizen journalists, reviewers. shutterbugs. The internet is awash with video bloggers, reviewers and YouTubers. And kudos to those who manage to get eyeballs for the content they generate, but the efforts of many can at best be termed amateurish.

While an amateurish effort may still be acceptable on a personal blog or on social media, it beggars belief that such a film can find place at a prestigious festival like the International Film Festival of India.

A documentary shot on mobile phone needs to be strong in its narration to merit such a high platform. But while the film was categorized in the non-feature segment as a Marathi film, Jahagirdar, for some reason, narrates the journey in English. And that, sadly, ruins the documentary.

Jahagirdar’s lack of proficiency in the language simply results in a banal narration, like listening to a schoolboy reciting his first English lesson. And the content is the equivalent of telling a child, ‘A for apple, B for ball.'

 A pilgrimage is a journey of self-discovery, of spiritual awakening. Jahagirdar was perhaps so choked by the emotions that he could not come up with the right words to express those moments.

There are many faiths and races, but we are all one. There is a Mauli (god) in all of us. Jahagirdar ends the documentary with the most cliched line.

While the idea of capturing a marathon journey on mobile phone was commendable, such content is seldom technically sound, even with very expensive cell phones. Add to that the physical toll of the journey and Jahagirdar can, perhaps, be excused the poor quality of the film, but the narration just puts you off.

Though the film has a runtime of 38 minutes, many in the auditorium began to leave barely five minutes into the screening, right in front of the filmmaker's eyes as he was seated in one of the front rows. But then whom can he blame but himself?

Yes, I Am Mauli was clearly more suited for an online platform than a prestigious film festival. Meanwhile, the search for a proper documentary on the annual Pandharpur yatra continues.

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