Banners: Sanjay S Dutt Productions, Blue Mustang Creations
Producers: Maanayata Dutt, Ashok Subhedar
Director: Raj R Gupta
Cast: Deepak Dobriyal, Nandita Patkar, Aaryan Manghji, Spruha, Abhijeet Khandkekar, Chittaranjan Giri, Jaywant Wadkar
Writers: Manish Singh, Raj R Gupta, Tejas Prabhaa, Vijay Deoskar
The Marathi film industry has always been a place from where novel, heart-wrenching stories stem. This time, we see Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt’s production venture Baba take the quality level several notches higher. With the right kind of emotion, drama and humour, the gripping storyline about the father-son bond hits all the right notes.
The story starts with a happy, underprivileged couple, Madhav and Aanandi, in rural Maharashtra. Both of them are physically challenged, they can neither speak nor hear. They live in the outskirts of their village with their son, Shankar, who does not face any physical disabilities. However, since he was brought up by Madhav and Aanandi, Shankar does not know how to speak or even understand any language. As the family lives in the happy bubble, due to certain turn of events, Madhav and Aanandi find themselves embroiled in a custody battle with a wealthy couple from Pune, Pallavi and Rajan. Trying everything to make sure they win and have Shankar live with them, Madhav leaves no stone unturned to prove to the court that they are fit set of parents for him. Does he manage to succeed? Or does the judge rule in favour of Rajan and Pallavi? Who decides Shankar’s fate? These questions form the crux of the story.
The beauty of this Raj R Gupta directorial lies in its simplicity. The filmmaker takes the universal emotion of a father and son bond and showcases it in a way that we haven’t seen before. There are a lot of silent interactions but it is the emotions that make you connect with the film and characters on a basic, human level. The actions and quiet gestures from the lead actors tug more at your heartstrings than most dialogues do.
It is very easy for a storyline which is so high on sentiment to cross the line and become overwhelming but Baba balances it smartly with a dose of humour. The light moments in the film go hand-in-hand with the emotions and give the narrative a natural feel to it. The production value of the film is not high even in the scenes with high magnitude and that seems to be the perfect treatment for it.
The beautiful and rustic setting plays a huge part in the tonality of the film. The scenes around Madhav’s house, the gripping scenes in the small courtroom in the village, all add as much as the characters to tell the story.
Gupta brings out strong, silent yet amazingly animated performances from his cast. The interactions between the father and son often seem Charlie Chaplin-esque but the warmth comes across. It is empowering to see that the director, while attributing physical challenges to the main cast, he has not sympathised with them but rather treated the whole angle with empathy. The nuances of the relationships in the film, the dichotomy of marital life between the two couples keeping in mind the backgrounds they come from is effortlessly shown. Gupta has broken the age-old myths about money being the core at the happiness of a couple and in this entire journey, he has done so with subtlety.
The music is given by Rohan-Rohan and the songs, playing in the background, seamlessly blend with the storyline. In fact, they enhance the sentiments in the scenes.
Baba is an emotional journey that the audience takes along with the characters in the film. The makers have taken a chance on it with the majority of the depictions of the interpersonal relationships being shown via sign language and gestures but the feel of it underneath comes through and becomes the USP of the film.
Performance-wise, Deepak Dobriyal does a brilliant job as the doting and devoted father. His expressions take up the job of being his words and convey what he is trying to say to the audience. Nandita Patkar playing the role of Aanandi perfectly complements Dobriyal. She brings the audience to tears in the scenes where the mother is distraught at the very thought of losing her son. Child artiste Aaryan Manghji is a treat to watch on the big screen. Spruha Joshi and Abhijeet Khandkekar as Pallavi and Rajan are good. Chittaranjan Giri as Madhav’s best friend is excellent and Jaywant Wadkar’s special appearance as the Judge is also good.
Verdict: A must watch Marathi gem!