Marathi films have come of age, in both style and content. They invariably seek to make social statements. I watched a few Marathi films recently. They were made at different points in time, and dealt with social issues, albeit at different levels and in entirely different ways.
Sanai Chaughude wanted to open the audiences mind and heart to an urban reality. – that of someone marrying an unwed mother. It came with a lot of gloss. The Corinthian Club in Pune, is usually the place where the affluent urban of Marathi films resolve their differences at the end of three reel hours. Good looking actors, wearing frocks and dresses that I have never really seen the working Marathi girl wear, set the tone. It was probably meant to take us to a place we don’t know- that of easily accepting the so called forward girls. However, the old idea of morality kicked in. If she is indeed an unwed mother, then she is exonerated by the fact that she was in love with her boyfriend and that they intended marrying – that’s when the accident killed him. If this element had not been introduced, the Marathi audience would not feel comfortable. They would not accept a promiscuous young girl who willingly went in for a one night stand, was knocked up as a result of that, did not wish to marry the father and wanted to raise the child on her own or with a suitable partner. It takes a man of steel to accept a woman like that.
The end was predictable and quite clumsily done, where the marriage arranger suddenly falls in love with this strange girl, else she will be left without a mate and how can the audience accept that?
Jogwa, on the other hand, made a powerful statement about exploitation in the name of religion. Power is the word that best and completely describes this film. Power packed performances, powerful story line (drags just a wee bit sometimes, although the repetitiveness of the mela song probably was intended to underscore a certain monotony and separateness of their lives). They become, like performing monkeys, all in the name of devotion for the mother, the Goddess Yellamma. It is out and out melodrama- an appropriate form to deal with a touchy subject where people are forced into leading lives ‘for the Mother’, to kill their emotions and make them unsure of their identity and existence. Social workers do come and eduate them and eventually a couple in love manage to break away from the suffocating shackles to lead an ordinary life of their choosing.
Jana Gana Mana is yet another commentary on the neglect of the rural poor, Government apathy and corruption. The child artiste immediately engages audience sympathy with his frail body and spindly limbs that encase the spirit of a lion. The absolutely limited life of the jungle dwellers is shown – how they drink, eat, fornicate (with a casual ‘don’t come in’ to their children, as they lower the thin sheet to conduct their business inside their hut), yell and love their children passionately. While the music is not really memorable, and the end is predictable, it is a sweet emotional film. We all know that most of us will never leave our urban jobs and responsibilities and work in the forest, but …maybe some of us will.
An overtly ‘social education’ film is ‘Ek Cup Chya’, or A Cup of Tea. The cup of tea stands for the ‘chai-pani’, a euphemism for the small bribes one pays to get one’ s papers pushed in Government departments. A simple honest bus conductor ( with an unbelievably always pleasant family), trying to reimburse his whopping electricity bill from the electricity department. In course of his struggles, his supply is cut off, leaving him in darkness ( ignorance?). He meets up with an RTI activist, fights for his right, and then there is light! Simultaneously, his young son passes his public exam with flying colors, daughter finds a mate and so on. Using the beautiful Konkan Ghats as a backdrop, and in as engaging a manner as possible, the movie shows the common man how to use RTI and become more active citizens.
These movies begin with a narrow premise and then lead the viewer to the larger question. With the added delights of engaging scripts, subtle metaphors and superior technology – we are not complaining!!