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!”

Slumdog Millionaire – The Most Over Hyped, Most Average Movie Ever?

Posted in Current Affairs, TV, Entertainment & Movies by Amit Paranjape on January 30, 2009

Disclaimer – I am no film critic, so read this review (more of a rambling…) with a pinch of whatever it is you take J. If you agree with my views, thanks! If you disagree – sorry about wasting your precious 5 minutes!

 

Imagine its early 2009 and aliens from a distant galaxy ‘happen’ to visit earth. Technologically they are 1000s of years ahead of mankind…proven just by the mere fact that they made it all the way here J. Yet they are completely confounded in their understanding of the human mind! After researching through each and every human behavior pattern and psychology, they still cannot figure out why these homo-sapiens are so crazy about this new hit movie called ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. And it’s not as-if they didn’t do their homework!

 

Thanks to their superior screening and learning abilities, they have already internalized all the great Hollywood classics from the past eight decades. They admired the depictions of space travel in Star Wars, the portrayal of prehistoric worlds in Jurassic Park, the history lessons from Ben Hur to Gladiator; and the drama in God Father. A simple love story that translated into probably the biggest all-time movie, ‘Titanic’ also aroused their strong interest. All these movies had terrific music, direction and cinematography.

 

These aliens have even tried (admittedly, with less success) to understand India’s ‘Bollywood’ and have studied great musical works of A.R. Rahman such as ‘Roja’, ‘Lagaan’, to name a few. After all, the language of music translates across galaxies J.  They have seen stark and realistic depictions of harsh realities of urban life in the developing world, in movies such as ‘Salam Bombay’ and ‘Traffic Signal’.

 

And now they are hit with this new challenge…How in the world (Sorry, How in the Universe J  ), to explain this phenomenon of Slumdog Millionaire! I and a few others (it seems for sure…) sympathize with their predicament.

 

I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the Slumdog movie, for starters. But there’s nothing, absolutely nothing great either! An average story, with hardly any plot! Music that doesn’t even come close to any of A.R. Rahman’s better efforts. Cinematography that primarily revolves around some ‘slum’ shots and some ‘train’ shots… Acting is probably the only one above average component in the movie…but calling it great, is a stretch as well!

 

For this ‘original’, ‘realistic’, ‘unique’ and ‘special’ depiction (of an extremely typical ‘Rags-To-Riches’ story format) – why is the movie stuck with those extremely stereo-typical India portrayals? Taj Mahal, Railways, Call Centers, and Slums – this theme doesn’t look that original and imaginative.

 

There is so much hype; to the point where it is getting long standing ovations?! Is the hype coming out of the doom and gloom that majority of the world finds itself today, following the 2008 Financial Crisis? Is the situation so bad, that such a movie can ‘uplift’ the mood of so many people? ‘Look at the misery around the world, and you are thankful for what you have’ – didn’t some philosopher say something like that?

 

Or has India suddenly become the flavor of the season? Or, are the rest of the movies (I haven’t watched any of the contenders) from 2008 so bad, that the juries of prestigious awards are stuck with this one?

 

Well…just as those aliens, we would probably never no! J 

 

 

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