A third Kulkarni alongside recent National Award winners Umesh and Girish has now emerged on the Marathi horizon in the form of Sandesh, brother of Sonali Kulkarni and husband of actress Amurta Subhash. But he’s already a respected theatre director in Pune and the sensibility of his small, frothy but perceptive debut film is perfectly in sync with the progressive-humanist mindset of the other two Kulkarnis who have produced this film, while Girish has written it and played the lead.
Yet, Masala is also different from Valu and Deool (Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s wonderful social satires) in that it’s not as acerbic and instead, offers a gentler, more compassionate perspective on life. Although Revan (Girish Kulkarni) gets duped at every turn and seems doomed in a cut-throat world, occasionally he also encounters benevolence and random acts of kindness which keep him from sinking.
Initially though, it’s frustrating to see this gullible man trusting everyone in sight from truck drivers who routinely bully him to policemen who don’t mind putting him behind bars. The first half of the film is like a road movie with the couple taking flight from different towns all over Maharashtra, hitching rides, setting up shop in a new place, and adopting a new identity, before fleeing yet again. These sequences are well shot and briskly edited to create the feeling that Revan’s life is whirring past.
He keeps a little red book with details of all his creditors’ dues and hopes to repay them some day. They haunt his dreams and often he wakes up disturbed by their unsettling presence. You can’t imagine anyone but Girish Kulkarni essaying this part – its success hinges on his ability to make an idiot not just likeable, but worth rooting for. Being a fable, it’s possible to imagine that the fool may actually triumph on account of his inherent innocence.
Bolstered by a fantastic supporting cast including Dr Shriram Lagoo, Mohan Agashe, Dilip Prabhavalkar and Jyoti Subhash, Masala relies heavily on situational and character-driven comedy. In a wonderfully conceived scene that inter-cuts between two parallel conversations, Sarika asks her out-of-work cousin to help find Revan a job, while his own wife is grumbling to Revan about her useless husband. It’s a perfect sync between dialogue, casting and editing.
Masala lives up to its name of being a mix of varied genres and ideas. It’s an affirmation of life and celebration of the human spirit – entertaining while being thought provoking, something many films aspire to be, but very few achieve as successfully.
Marathi, Comedy, Drama, Color