Kesari Is Dangal With Karate Kid Thrown In

Kesari(Marathi, ErosNow)

Starring Virat Madke, Rupa Borgaonkar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vikram Gokhale, Mohan Joshi

Directed  by Sujay Dahake

Rating: ** ½ 

An abusive father,a doting mother,a silently  supportive grandfather and a  bunch of encouraging rowdy friends…there we  have the recipe for a successful sports drama. This time it is  a young man from a  village in Maharashtra who wants to be  a wrestler. His father(Umesh Gagtap)  gets abusive  at the mention of the sport while his grandfather(Vikram  Gokhale, in an eminently welcome cameo),a failed wrestler,  encourages  his grandson to get into the akhada with nothing on except  the  background music  and the lal langoti.

The  visual landscape is  eye-catching and  yet authentic. Long shots of buffaloes  and lorry vans winding their way through hilly roads are beautifully  appended to what looks like  a half-hearted formula film celebrating every trope of  the  sports genre without exploring the theme or  the  drama in anything except a superficial sometimes stirring swish across the  canvas.

 Not that Kesari is  not engaging. Some  portions specially  one meal in the  hovel where grandfather Vikram  Gohkale leaves his  food after  watching his  beloved grandson being abused once again , stand out. But  the film is largely too filmy and  flimsy  to  hold head steady as a  work of any substance. The  dramatic  juice leaks  out of the loopholes in the plot. And we are  never fully  invested  in Balya(Balram)’s struggle  to  rule the  ring while  a political bigwig(Mohan Joshi, seen  after ages) tries to push  his unworthy son as  a state champ by  buying off the competition.

“You take care of the body. I’ll take care  of the rest,” Joshi commands his  son’s trainer who looks confused as to what he is supposed to do.

It all seems to conveniently  manufactured. And  I found the  emotional conflicts to be way  too selfconscious. What  holds the film together to a point is Balya’s pupil-mentor relationship with a wrestler-turned-car mechanic Ismail Pehelwan. Mahesh Manjrekar brings to the part a crusty crispness a pleasant jadedness  verging on a well-earned worldly wisdom. Here is a  man who has seen  better days  but has not allowed failure to make  him bitter. 

Very  obviously ripped off from the  Pat Morita-Ralph Macchio  alliance in The Karate KidManjrekar and newcomer Virat  Dilip Madke’s  bonding holds our attention  on the training ground. But  after a point their  sportive skirmishes begin to get repetitive.In the  central  role the  young new actor is earnest and convincing though his rawness comes in the way in emotional scenes.

 It  is evident that the  director Sujay Dahake means well.  But he  introduces  absurd crowdpleasing gimmicks. A romantic angle  with  a girl dressed in  immaculately stitched ghagras  and blouses  crops  up from nowhere replete with coy glances at  the river bank and romantic ballads  about trembling  lips and  eager hips , giving Manjrekar the  opportunity to say the  film’s most memorable  line to his protégé. “Nothing is  more  embarrassing then the langot coming undone in the wrestling wring”.

This  film  manages to keep its langot on.But barely.

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