Bhonsle Movie might be set in another time period and focus on animosity of a distinct sort, but because hatred hasn’t quite vanished among us, it feels pertinent to the present moment.
The film has smothered me with a sense of desolation that refuses to relent. And I’m not just saying this in a nice way. In the movie, retired police officer Ganpat Bhonsle (Manoj Bajpayee), who is fighting to extend his service, utters desolation through the sentient silence of his existence. It rings loudly in his gloomy, damp, and run-down flat in Mumbai’s Churchill chawl; the sparse, monotonous meals of pav and dal; and the unclean utensils and broken transistor. His reserve extends to interpersonal contact of any sort, as he is reluctant to even accept greetings from his new North Indian neighbor Sita (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh) and her brother Lalu (Virat Vaibhav). On the other side is the inability to combat the unceasing, terrifying visits of a crow. The grim Bhonsle stands out in the vast sea of humanity and, together with his dreary habitat, becomes a powerful promoter of desolation. Makhija’s sluggish build up is about more than setting the tone or emphasizing the town’s dark core; it’s about making it tangible and leaping off the screen to touch the viewer.
Anger is another driving force in the film. However, simmering within him as he faces humiliating demands to please his seniors. There are several Marathi taxi driver Vilas’ (Santosh Juvekar) wraths against North Indian migrants, who are said to be stealing their jobs and more, while they still live in their own homes. It’s a fury stirred by local officials that is met with an equally furious but somehow restrained reaction from the newcomers, such as Rajendra (Abhishek Banerjee). The creation of Ganpati idols to their visarjan are all connected.
Irony is that all three individuals, who appear to be polar opposites of one another, aren’t just unified by a common fury in the first, an entitled attitude in the second, and a retaliatory temperament in the third. They also share a collective experience of being marginalized, dispossessed, and tormented in their own individual manner. They continue the power dynamics at their end, pushing them further down the ladder of dominance. However, towards the conclusion, when the savage crescendo kicks in, I’m both devastated and a little disturbed by how it demands violence as a means for social purgation and especially with an intelligent, brilliant woman forced to be at the receiving end of terrible.
This, however, does not detract from the film’s power. Though Bhonsle may be set at a different time and revolves around animosity of a certain sort, it appears timely because hatred has not yet vanished from among us. The feeling has simply changed form to become even more multi-faceted and diabolical. And when the film’s core issue is an insider-outsider debate between people who have immigrated into Mumbai from other parts of India while the city awaits for them to return for its own selfish reasons and requirements, it couldn’t have struck a more ironical note.
Makhija’s cast is made up of competent individuals, whether it be Juvekar, Chakraborty Singh, or Banerjee. Bajpayee is amazing in his understanding of Bhonsle and employs not just his face but also his entire body to portray the disaffected, apathetic expression to the heavy shoulders and hesitant stride. In a modest yet effective manner, he conveys it all from being a silent witness to the bearer of an unfathomable personal tragedy and a savage moral power. Lalu, the hesitant sinner with a heightened sense of guilt, is wonderfully fragile as Virat Vaibhav. He and Bajpayee work together to preserve the chawl’s vachanalaya (public reading room) and the film’s conscience in general.
The film was released in India on the same day. It had its international premiere at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival, and it also played at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival and Dharamshala International Film Festival.
Now you can watch “Bhonsle Movie” on Netflix or CinemaHD app.
Directed by: Devashish Makhija
Running time: 128 minutes
Movie Rating: 3.4/5