Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Ishita Chakraborty Singh, Virat Viabhav, Abhishek Bannerjee, Santosh Juvekar
Directed by Devashish Makhija
Strightaway, this is a persuasive and powerful film that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who has watched any film set in the cultural-political dynamics that govern life in the Mumbai chawls. As relevant as Saeed Mirza’s Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro and N Chandra’s Ankush (the two films that are most decidedly the reference points) Bhonsle has a gut-wrenching immediacy to it.
A palpable sense of infinite injustice seeps into a world and a culture rapidly being taken over by goons. Most unexpectedly the retired cop Ganpath Bhosle (Bajpayee, in another sterling performance) takes on the role of an unlikely hero, as he protects a young Bihari girl and her kid-brother from the wrath and disdain of a political henchman who want to use the ‘Marathi Manoos’ card to send all migrant labourers back to Bihar.
The dynamics of chawl life are adeptly visualized. Director Devashish Makhija (if you haven’t seen his previous serial killer drama Ajji then see it now ) creates an unbearable fear-driven tension in the chawl-setting as the political goon Vilas(a suitably scummy Santosh Juvekar) bullies and roughs up Bihari tenants hoping to make his political bosses happy.
There is nothing new in the dramatic tension created here between a vulnerable Bihari brother-sister duo and the local selfappointed cultural cleansers. Bajpayee‘s character of the gruff dying cop who finds a reason to live in protecting the violated siblings, is a large cliché, deconstructed and rejuvenated by Bajpayee‘s deeply nauanced pain-lashed performance. This is a man who has nothing to lose, who decides he might as well go with a bang rather than wither in his shanty room with a whimper.
The central relationship is sturdily built, and we can almost smell the stench of ground-level politics. The authentic chawl location is captured by cameraman Jimget Wanchuk with claustrophobic credibility. The crisis points in the screenplay are adroitly developed. I didn’t think much of the brutal gruesomely violent climax in a grimy bathroom cubicle where the Rambo in Bhosle comes alive. But I get it. Violence is sometimes the only solution to political bullying.
Manoj Bajpayee anchors the proceedings with a portrayal that is in many ways the opposite of a performance. No dramatic high points are created to accentuate the performance. Ishita Chakraborty Singh (reminiscent of Nisha Singh in Ankush, though far less sugary), Santosh Juvekar, Abhishek Bannerjee (the killer from Pataal Lok here playing a marginal part as an embittered migrant) and the Bihari boy Virat Vaibhav (with no acting experience) come together in a film that needed actors to not ACT.