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Bhonsle Is A Nudge For A  Compassionate Universe



Bhonsle (SonyLiv)

Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Ishita Chakraborty Singh, Virat Viabhav, Abhishek  Bannerjee,  Santosh Juvekar

Directed by  Devashish Makhija

Rating: ****

Strightaway, this is a  persuasive and powerful film that shouldn’t be missed  by anyone who has watched  any  film set in  the cultural-political dynamics that  govern   life in  the Mumbai chawls. As  relevant  as  Saeed Mirza’s  Salim  Langde Pe Mat Ro and N Chandra’s  Ankush(the two  films that are most decidedly the reference points) Bhonsle   has a gut-wrenching immediacy to  it.

    A  palpable  sense of  infinite  injustice seeps  into  a  world and a culture rapidly being taken  over by goons.  Most  unexpectedly  the retired  cop Ganpath Bhosle(Bajpai, in another sterling  performance)  takes on  the role of an unlikely hero, as he protects a young Bihari girl and her kid-brother  from the wrath  and  disdain  of  a  political henchman who want to use  the  ‘Marathi Manoos’ card to send  all migrant labourers  back to  Bihar.

 The dynamics of chawl life  are adeptly  visualized. Director  Devashish Makhija(if you haven’t seen his previous serial  killer  drama Ajji then see it now )  creates an unbearable fear-driven tension in  the  chawl-setting as the political goon Vilas(a suitably  scummy Santosh  Juvekar) bullies and roughs  up Bihari tenants hoping to make his  political bosses happy.

 There  is  nothing new in the dramatic tension created here between a vulnerable Bihari brother-sister duo and the local selfappointed  cultural cleansers. Bajpai’s character  of  the gruff dying  cop who finds a reason to live  in protecting  the  violated siblings, is  a large cliché, deconstructed and rejuvenated  by Bajpai’s deeply nauanced pain-lashed  performance. This is a man who has  nothing to lose, who decides he  might as well go with a bang rather than  wither in his  shanty room with a whimper.

 The  central relationship is sturdily built, and we can almost smell  the stench of    ground-level  politics. The  authentic  chawl location  is  captured by cameraman  Jimget Wanchuk  with claustrophobic credibility. The crisis points  in  the  screenplay are adroitly developed. I didn’t think much of the brutal gruesomely violent climax in a grimy bathroom cubicle where  the Rambo in Bhosle comes alive. But  I  get it. Violence is sometimes the only solution  to political  bullying.

 Manoj Bajpayee anchors  the proceedings with a  portrayal that is  in many ways  the opposite of a performance. No  dramatic high points are created to  accentuate  the  performance.  Ishita Chakraborty Singh(reminiscent of  Nisha Singh in  Ankush, though far less sugary),  Santosh  Juvekar, Abhishek Bannerjee(the  killer  from Pataal Lok here  playing a  marginal part as an embittered  migrant) and the Bihari boy Virat  Vaibhav(with no  acting  experience)  come together in a film that needed actors  to not ACT.

Just be.

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