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मी शिवाजी राजे भोसले बोलतोय: Some thoughts

It’s been a while since this movie appeared, I know, but I didn’t see it until this week. This happens to be the first Mararthi movie I have watched in the cinema hall, although I watch some now and then on  my laptop.  The ticket was cheap, I had nothing better to do, a friend of mine had a McDonalds coupon which we planned to use afterwards and I knew the theater had really good sandwiches, so I went. And I rather liked it.

Mahesh Manjrekar needs no introduction (did you notice his absence from the hype surrounding  Slumdog Millionaire? What’s with that?) and Sachin Khedekar is a well known face on T.V. and in movies. I like them both, so amongst them they will have scratched up a decent movie, I thought.  But I had no high expectations from this particular movie. Well, I’m sorry. I went to the theatre expecting to see a loud, overdone and propogandist movie. Can you blame me? Now that beating up Bhaiyyas and vandalizing their establishments is the new anger mangement technique (not to mention the “final” solution to our city’s social ills), a movie with the tagline “himmat asel tar adva” (stop them if you have the guts) doesn’t exactly associate with “Guess how much I love you” hugs. So I went to the theatre expecting some celluloid Bhaiyya bashing. Not to mention a crowd supplying a constant backdrop of  whistles, cheers and the occasional outbreak of “Jai Bhavani, Jai Shivaji.” So what did I find?

I found Dinkar Rao Bhosale, a mild mannered bank clerk who has nothing in common with his mighty namesake. He has a dead-end job, an old bungalow he can hardly maintain on his meager salary, a resigned manner and a nagging wife.  The plot follows Dinkar Rao as he resists a Gujarati builder’s attempts to raze his bungalow.  Shivaji Raje serves as his friend, guide and philosopher throughout this struggle.

Now here’s the thing. The first part of the movie shows our mousy hero serving as a dart board for insults. “Ghatis should live within their means.” “Bloody Ghatis.”  His boss, a shopkeeper, a fishwife and other assorted non- Maharashtrians all call him a Ghati to his face and proceed to make a general statement about the sloth, incompetence or some other vice of Marathi people.  What’s the deal with that?  Who throws racial slurs at Marathi people to their faces? Have you ever seen this happen? Neither have I. What was S.M. trying to prove here?  How it sucks to be Marathi in Mumbai? How Marathi people are at the bottom of the dunghill? Our hero is majorly pissed off, but I am merely puzzled. A live, walking, talking Shivaji did not strike me as unrealistic, but this did. As did all the parts where he exorcises corrupt bureaucrats with lectures on Marathi-ness.  It was  messed up.  And yet, it was endearing: you really start to feel for the poor sod (although you despise him a little too).  The rest of the movie follows Dinkar Rao and his family on their struggle with Shivaji popping in  now and then to bolster our Marathi manoos’ confidence.

The message that the movie tries to convey is this: If  you are Marathi and your life sucks stop blaming it on the outsiders- get off your arse and do something about it.  It is not that the Bhayyas are Marvadis and Nepalis are stealing your turf, business, or job: its just that  you couldn’t be arsed to do anything more than  whine about it. Start your own shop, apply for your own post in the Civil Service. It makes sense, this message. Another thing: that anyone who lives here is a Mumbaikar, regardless of race, origin or religion just as all citizens of this state are Maharashtrian, whatever their origin. It’s a refreshing change from the pro-Marathi hatemongering we’re used to. 

The performances are all good, but the fight scenes…..well, you have to see them. All in all, the movie is at least worth watching once, but there’s no repeat value.  It is certainly not a classic, although this fellow I know wants this movie to be our Oscar nomination. This same fellow also thinks beer comes from grapes, so let’s not dwell on his opinion.

I had fun; the sandwiches and comic relief were good, the Pepsi was cheap and the crowd even obliged us with the occasional “Har Har Mahadeo!”

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