Vantage point

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Devrai Review

Devrai - Sacred Grove

It is heartening to see how Marathi cinema has grown. After the heady success of Shwaas, came Sunil Sukhthankar and Sumitra Bhave's Devrai, which also met with decent commercial success. After hearing many rave reviews, I finally bought its VCD and watched it yesterday.

The first thing that hits you about the movie is its starcast, as the opening credits are shown. The film stars the who's who of Marathi cinema, viz, Atul Kulkarni, Sonali Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe, Amruta Subhash, Tushar Dalvi, and even the little star of Shwaas - Ashwin Chitale.

The movie is the portrayal of the difficult life of a schizophrenic, and the difficulties that his family members have in coping with it. Atul Kulkarni plays the role of Shesh the schizo with habitual aplomb, and he is a treat to watch in his moments of rage, insecurity, and frail determination.

Sonali Kulkarni too delivers a gem of a performance, that of a diffident village girl married to a successful scientist. Her character, Sina, is torn between love for her schizo brother, and her responsibilities towards her husband and children. At times she is combative, at times submissive, according to the situation and her state of mind.

Tushar Dalvi also plays his complex character perfectly - basically a nice guy scientist who alternates between doing the right thing, and getting frustrated at the inconvenience of his schizo borther-in-law.

Mohan Agashe, Amruta Subhash and Ashwin Chitale basically have support roles, and don't get much scope to display their skills. But then, this is a movie, not an acting contest.

The screenplay and the editing betray Hollywood influences (and I use "influence" in the true sense of the word, and not in the way Mahesh Bhatt is "influenced" by Hollywood), especially in the first half, as we are brought up to speed with Shesh's life. The second half shows him and the family struggling to combat the mental illness. The story moves along at a decent pace at first, but slows down a bit in the second half.

The high point of the movie is the conversation that Shesh has with some fellow-schizophrenics in the day care centre. A lot of movies have been made about illnesses, disabilities and suffering, but this is the first time I have seen a movie trying to imagine conversation between victims, discussing the problems and solutions. It is a really touching scene.

All in all, a splendid movie. I recommend it heartily, even to the non-Marathis in Mumbai, as almost all theatres are playing the movie with english sub-titles.