Amit Paranjape’s Blog

‘Bal Gandharva’ – A Nice Tribute To The Legend

Posted in History, Pune, TV, Entertainment & Movies, Uncategorized by Amit Paranjape on May 9, 2011

The ‘Bal Gandharva’ movie opened this week. I was eagerly waiting for its release, and managed to catch this afternoon’s show. I normally don’t blog about cinema; unless I am really impressed (or extremely disappointed) with a specific movie. ‘Bal Gandharva’ clearly falls in the former category…hence this brief blog post.

This movie provides a great snapshot into the life of the legendary Marathi Theater artist and singer Narayan Shripad Rajhans (popularly known as ‘Bal Gandharva’).

[Do read this great speech by Pu La Deshpande (from 1988) describing the greatness of Bal Gandharva. I will quote a few of lines:  “महाराष्ट्राने तीन व्यक्तींवर जिवापाड प्रेम केलेलं आहे. ही महाराष्ट्राची सांस्कृतिक दैवतं आहेत असं म्हटलं तरी चालेल. पहिले म्हणजे छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज, दुसरे लोकमान्य बाळ गंगाधर टिळक आणि तिसरे बालगंधर्व.”

Roughly translates as: “Maharashtra has given undying love to three great individuals. These three can be referred to as the cultural/historical gods of Maharashtra. First one is Shivaji Maharaj, second Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and third Bal Gandharva.”]

Coming back to the movie, Subodh Bhave in the lead role of Bal Gandharva is terrific. The screen-play, the sets, the direction are all excellent. At times, the movie has a slight documentary like feel and the viewer is transported to Maharashtra in the early part of the 20th century – an era that represented the golden age of Marathi Theater. The movie is thoroughly entertaining and engrossing. Music is an integral part of the movie and Anand Bhate has does an amazing job of singing the original Bal Gandharva classics.

‘Bal Gandharva’ presents many of the key events and periods in the life of Bal Gandharva, in a balanced manner, often leaving the interpretation to the viewer. His early years with the Kirloskar Natak Company…His amazing potrayal of female roles… Setting up his own Gandharva Natak Mandali… Struggles with his personal family life… His constant desire to leave no stone unturned to create a grand production for the audience, at any cost… His utter mismanagement of finances and resulting huge debts… The waning years of his career when theater audiences started defecting to the new medium of cinema… and through all this, his total perseverance and steadfast devotion to his primary love – Theater.

From a historical perspective, this movie shows many important characters and events. Lokmanya Tilak listening to a young Narayan (aged 10) and referring him as ‘Bal Gandharva’ for the first time, Anant Kanhere shooting Collector Jackson at a theater in Nashik, Ram Ganesh Gadkari at his death bed, Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, Maharaja of Baroda, a young V Shantaram convincing Bal Gandharva to switch to this new medium called ‘Cinema’,…and many more. I personally like historical movies and Bal Gandharva scores really well in this area as well.

Do watch ‘Bal Gandharva’ if you are a fan of theater, history or music. The movie has English sub-titles.

I will close with this line (by Ga Di Madgulkar?): “”असा बालगंधर्व आता न होणे!”

12 Responses

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  1. Chitra Phadke said, on May 10, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Good to know the movie is a ‘must-see’. They had a showing at the NY Film Festival last week – but missed it. Will keep a lookout for a showing at the local Marathi Vishwa .

  2. Himanshoo Bhat Navangul said, on May 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Hi Amit,
    Thanks for your write-up on the Bal Gandharva movie. I, too, saw it just a few days ago . Here are a few points I would like to make:
    1. I am 70 years of age yet all these years, for whatever reasons, I didn’t quite appreciate who Bal Gandharva really was so when the film opened, Anand started singing and Subodh started acting, I burst into tears and didn’t stop sobbing until the film was over,
    2. Needless to say, credits go to Mr. Bhate, Mr. Bhave and Mr. Desai… in that order( Pratyaksha hoona pratima sunder)
    3. It also showed us how artists are different, a breed apart, and Mr Rajahans was no exception …except all artists are not so divine and generous,
    4. There was a pin-drop silence in the cinema hall, inspite of the fact almost all spectators were young families.
    I am glad, at last, I witnessed a phenomenon and an institution that is larger than life!
    Thanks.
    Himanshoo…

  3. Amit Paranjape said, on May 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Hi Himanshoo – Thanks for your comments. You have captured the mood in the theater quite well.. similar observations when I watched it.

  4. Kanchan said, on May 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Amit, thankyou for your comments, we’ll surely watch the movie.

  5. Milind Ganapule said, on May 18, 2011 at 10:33 am

    sahaj…google karta karta tumacha blog miLala ani me vachla. tya nantar khupach bolkya pratikriya vachlya.
    chitrapatat kharatar nava thevava asa kahich nahi. marathi cinema mhanun abhimanana urr bharun ala.
    ek prashNa ahe – hya chitrapatat je ‘Pandit’ character ahe tyacha poorna naav kai? hi vyakti kai karat ase? kuthlyashya ek kshaNi tyancha poorNa naav yeta chitrapatat paN me miss kela. koNi sangu shakel ka?

    Apla,

    Milind Ganapule

  6. Amit Paranjape said, on May 19, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Milind – Thanks for the comments. Maybe some reader might be able to answer your query. Amit

  7. Amit Paranjape said, on May 19, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Kanchan – Thanks.. do let me know your impressions.

  8. Nitin D Atkekar said, on May 19, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Amit
    Really it is a gr8 experience to watch the movie. I am still in that mood of that time plays.
    Subodh has got lifetime role to play. I have few points about the movie

    1. The name Bhaskarbua Bakhle from whom Naranrao taken initial “Sa re ga ma” is not there in the film.
    2.The Bharavi “JOhar maibap” is not there.
    3. Though Anad Bhate has performed well it would have been appropriate if original songs of Balgandahrva himself might have been used as play back.

    Any way the movie os really a mesmerizing experience.

  9. Aboli Chavan said, on May 23, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Today I saw this brilliant movie. I was moved by Balgandharva’s persona. His passion and dedication for theater was just so overwhelming. As a movie I found it very entertaining, colorful and informative to great extent. And what to speak of Subodh Bhave’s performance, he was at his best. The music was an integral part and to me it didn’t stand out exclusively; probably because I still have Natarang fresh on my mind.
    I too like historical movies but I found this one too concise. May be I was expecting more; more of narrative story structure but I assume the movie had a different format.

    I loved the ‘phetas’ that Subodh Bhave has donned in the movie.

    I missed the first few minutes which probably depicted his childhood. Your article gave me insights into the same. So thanks for it.

    Regards,
    Aboli Chavan

  10. Abhay Patil said, on May 28, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Amit – thanks. Just back from theater – and you have written exactly what I felt! I also agree with some of the criticism – that it is more like a play than a cinema. On a totally different note – I found it extremely jarring that their promotional material, including website and posters, hardly mention the name of the director. Normally, the byline “A film by …” is reserved for the director, but here the producer / art director has hogged it. May be Ravi Jadhav (director) and Nitin Desai had some tiff and this was the fallout. But overall, thanks to both for a wonderful treat!

  11. Amit Paranjape said, on May 31, 2011 at 12:00 am

    Abhay – Thanks for your comments.

  12. dinesh chawade said, on June 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    to see tihis movie i had traveld hyderabad to aurangabad and ilove it .subodh bhave great like kamala hasan.allover it is an pleasent expirence.

    thank you,
    Dinesh Chawade, Hydeabad


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