Director: Ravi Jadhav
Producer: Nitin Chandrakant Desai
Music: Kaushal Inamdar
Cast: Subodh Bhave, Abhijit Kelkar, Siddharth Chandekar, Vibhavari Deshpande, Kishore Kadam, Prachiti Mhatre
Rating: * * *
Musical plays with men impersonating women might sound unusual in today’s times but this was common in the pre and post 1900 era as women weren’t allowed to act or perform back then. This phenomenon is brilliantly presented in Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi movie Balgandharva, a biopic on the life of Narayan Shripad Rajhans aka Narayanrao aka Balgandharva, produced and designed by Nitin Chandrakant Desai. However, apart from a superlative presentation, the film lacks a powerful script.
The film follows the story of Narayanrao, a gifted singer with impeccable acting skills who won many a hearts with his performances as a woman (most of them) in Marathi natya-sangeet and how tragedy struck him.
Jadhav’s presentation and Desai’s realistic and stunning sets submerge the viewer into an extravagant yesteryear world. For this very experience, the duo deserves a huge thumbs-up. The film is loaded with a number of scenes which can move anyone. The one where Narayanrao performs even on the day of his daughter’s death takes the cake. Add to this, Kaushal Inamdar’s music, Mahesh Limaye’s cinematography, some heartfelt choreography and what you get is a treat for your senses.
Unfortunately there are flaws or setbacks in the script mostly in the form of too many songs. Although songs are an important part when a film is based on musical plays, it tests the patience of the viewer as they pop up after almost every five minutes throughout the film. Hence, viewing will be very difficult for those who aren’t interested in natya-sangeet. Apart from that, the writing slows down on numerous occasions.
As he had a mammoth task of playing a central character in such a movie, it was vital for Subodh Bhave to give a mind-blowing performance and this is exactly what he does. His acts as women appear so real that it is difficult to believe that it is a male portraying a woman. In short, he forces the viewer to stand up and applaud his act.
Vibhavari Deshpande also makes her presence felt with a mature act. Narayanrao’s comrades – Abhijit Kelkar, Siddharth Chandekar – are also lovable especially in their women acts while Kishore Kadam and Vidyadhar Joshi are perfect. Manoj Joshi does well in a cameo and Prachiti Mhatre impresses in a small role and looks naturally beautiful. Other supporting actors also deserve praise.
Overall, it takes a big heart to make something like Balgandharva. Despite shortcomings, the film is worth a watch because of the performances, music, sets and direction. At the box-office, it will surely be one of the highest grossing Marathi films of the year.