The buzz was really strong—that it was a big hit in the midst of the slump; the ads claimed it was the biggest hit of the century, and so on.
Finally, I made my way to a suburban hall to catch Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy – written by Mahesh Manjrekar, and directed by Santosh Manjrekar. It stars Sachin Khedekar as a meek ‘Marathi Manoos’, inspired by Shivaji Maharaj to fight for his rights. When he is being bullied by everyone around him (greedy wife, sullen kids, rapacious builder after his property, corrupt bureaucrats, ), Shivaji puts some iron into his spine.
Overnight, Bhosale acquires assertiveness, and with a chest-thumping gesture of Marathi pride, puts everyone in their place. Munnabhai did it with Gandhigiri, Bhosale does the same with ‘Shivajigiri.’ The difference is that Munnabhai was a gangster, Bhosale is not.
And as a member of the very same middle class, one empathises with Bhosale and roots for his little victories, knowing fully well how implausible it all is… that if one of us went to the municipal ward office and told a corrupt official that his children must be ashamed of him, it wouldn’t not just be like pouring water over a duck’s back, it is highly likely that one’s complaint will just never be addressed in one’s lifetime.
That’s why Bhosale is the ordinary man’s hero like the nameless warrior (Naseeruddin Shah) in A Wednesday was too. Unlike Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Man, they don’t fight some vague personal battle, but address the angst that all middle class people feel, because nobody cares for this group of honest, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. Certainly not contemporary cinema— in the last decade you can count on your fingertips films made in Mumbai about ordinary people (Khosla Ka Ghosla, Dombivli Fast come to mind at once). Big-budget mainstream cinema is busy selling Swiss (or UK, or whatever) tourism, and the other film Factories are glorifying gangsters or dissolute wastrels.
After the Left-leaning, socially conscious writers, poets and filmmakers of the fifties, and briefly, some of the Art filmmakers of the seventies, hardly anybody has spoken for the common citizen. That’s why, even the strident pamphleteering of films like A Wednesday and Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy appeals to the mild middle class soul. Our hero is now balding, bespectacled man wearing a bush-shirt and chappals. That could be the description of my father– and that makes me want to applaud the triumph of Mr Bhosale.