Premachi Goshta (2013, Marathi)
Director: Satish Rajwade
Writer: Satish Rajwade
Cast: Atul Kulkarni, Sagarika Ghatge, Sulekha Talvalkar, Rohini Hattangadi, Meera Welankar, Satish Rajwade, Ajay Purkar
Premachi Goshta, as the title makes quite clear, is simply a love story. It is about two recently single people finding each other. Ram (Atul Kulkarni) is a scriptwriter whose divorce from the struggling actress Ragini (Sulekha Talvalkar) is pending in court with only some paperwork and some court-mandated couples counselling sessions remaining. Ragini is keen to move on from what she considers a mistake and focus on her career; Ram is clinging to the hope that with patience and a little effort from both of them, their relationship can still be mended. At the marriage counsellor’s office, he runs into Sonal, who is also going through a bitter divorce and in the very first meeting she makes it clear that she considers marriage to be a big mistake and will have nothing to do with men.
This conversation sets the tone for their later discourse on love and relationships, as Sonal ends up assisting Ram on the script of his next film. Both are quite easily and obviously drawn to each other, but neither can retract from the statements they made during the first meeting – Ram must stand by his commitment to wait for Ragini, and Sonal must feign disinterest in men in general. Things get further complicated when Ragini, as well as Sonal’s ex – Samit (Ajay Purkar), re-enter the scene.
This is a feel-good film about very likeable people. Atul and Sagarika share an easy chemistry so that it is a comfort level, not mere attraction, which makes them the right pair. Mercifully, this doesn’t try too hard to be a certain kind of film. There are some nice chuckles to be had, but no contrivances to make it a romantic comedy. Given that both our leads have a history, it is also refreshingly free of sentimentalism and ex-bashing, and we’re not forced to see our leads as poor little victims (compare this with Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil Toh Baccha Hai Jee in which a divorce is not too subtly blamed on the working wife). Yes, Ragini the ambitious comes across initially as selfish and more aggressive than anything Ram can handle, but neither Ram nor the film holds her responsible for breaking the marriage. Sonal is less charitable towards her ex, but even he is allowed his moments of redemption.
I must mention, however that, at least for me, this sensitivity is somewhat undone by the fact that in the end, it is the caring and nurturing Sonal and not the ambitious Ragini, who is deemed worthy of Ram’s affection. Also, for a feisty and independent woman like Sonal, she doesn’t seem to have much of a plan or aspirations. She takes up a job to get her mind off the stress of her troubles, and doesn’t ever consider being a writer until Ram drags her into it.
These are minor squabbles, however, in a film that wins you with some clever screenplay writing. Our hero is a writer, and he could almost be a stand-in for the writer himself. As the story of Ram and Sonal’s film takes shape, plot points and dialogue from the story they are writing often punctuate the ‘real’ story taking shape between the two writers. This way, the writer gets to slip in dramatic, even corny lines that do not belong in Ram and Sonal’s world. When tension creeps up between the two, it rears its head in their work as well. References to A Midsummer Night’s Dream are used to further underline the tangles.
The casting and performances are perfect, except for Rohini Hattangdi who’s wasted in a pretty much Nirupa Roy-ish role and writer-director Satish Rajwade, who has cast himself as Ram’s best friend and *almost* steals the title of No.1-Director-Who-Can’t-Act from Farah Khan.
Atul Kulkarni, needless to say, can play just about anything. It might be interesting to someday see him do a Kamal Hassan and play half a dozen roles in a movie. I bet he can pull it without prosthetics. Meera Welankar is pleasant in a small role in which her weight is mercifully never mentioned even in passing. Many a talented actor has wasted a career playing the same role defined by one physical feature, over and over again.
The most interesting bit of casting, though is Sagarika Ghatge as Sonal. I don’t know much about this actress, haven’t seen her since Chak De! India. While her name is very Marathi, her diction hints at a cosmopolitan upbringing, and that actually adds colour to our Sonal. We never delve too deep into her past, but she displays enough shades in her personality to get you drawn to her and before you know it, you are rooting for her. The story is above her about her triumph.
Too often, lately, watching Marathi films gives you a feeling that they are trying to catch up with Hindi films in their production values and cool quotient. Or they go and do right the opposite and assert their vernacular identity with a vengeance. In this again, Premachi Goshta does neither, sitting comfortably in a milieu where its characters feel most at home. I just loved the first scene where we meet Sonal. At the verge of divorce and dragged by the faithful friend to a pub, she is trying (unsuccessfully) not to join Meera on the dance floor. She is a happy person who can’t stay gloomy even when it seems like the appropriate thing to do!
Most importantly, you never really get a sense that their respective past or some kind of trauma is what draws Ram and Sonal towards each other. They are simply right for each other. Isn’t that what you look for in your love stories?
(Deepti Chaudhuri Sharma is an editor, writer, blogger and in her own words ‘mad mad cinema fanatic.’ If you ever find Jaani Dushman running on TV, leave her a tweet at @DeeSCJockey. Even though she has watched it a thousand times, she will bless you liberally for that.)