A Spine-Chilling Masterpiece
90%Overall Score

Streaming now on SonyLIV

Devashish Makhija’s Bhonsle is one of those films that makes a lot of noise at film festivals. This is not a film for the typical Indian audience. It does not aim to entertain or make you “feel good”. It portrays migrant politics in Mumbai, set against the backdrop of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Focusing on the story of a retired havaldar and his neighborhood, the film stars Manoj Bajpayee in yet another avatar we have not seen him in before. And as always, the lead actor leaves you thoroughly impressed.

Bhosle revolves around Havaldar Ganpat Bhonsle (Manoj Bajpayee) who has reached the end of his career. As monotony and gloom begin to engulf his life, he is not willing to give up on the only thing he lives for. Meanwhile, his health is severely deteriorating and it does not help that he lives all alone and barely speaks to his neighbors. When Sita (Ipshita Chakraborty Singh) and her young brother Lalu (Virat Vaibhav) move in next door, it seems that his ways might finally change for the better. Bhonsle and Sita develop an unlikely alliance, especially after he protects her brother from Vilas Dhavle (Santosh Juvekar) – the local goon whose biggest agenda is to drive the Bihari migrants out of Mumbai. Dhavle respects Bhonsle given that the latter is a Marathi manoos but when Bhonsle humiliates him, Dhavle has finally had enough. He is out to cause trouble and Bhonsle might be the only one to bring an end to his nuisance.

Devashish Makhija’s classic filmmaking style

Devashish Makhija uses a slow pace of narration to portray the monotony of Bhonsle’s life as well as his gradually deteriorating condition. From the sets to the music, everything in the movie depicts despair and the tight frames create a sense of claustrophobia within the setting of a chawl. Makhija uses these fine elements to put forth his message and successfully emotes the reactions he is expecting from the audience. Even the metaphorical use of the growing population of rats and other pests incite a feeling of dread and suffocation throughout the film to portray the essence of life in a crowded city.

Manoj Bajpayee – the underrated superstar

Roles in Bollywood are made for some actors and then there are artists like Manoj Bajpayee who can fit into any character perfectly. Perhaps one of the most underrated actors in Bollywood, he performs this role with a kind of ease as if it was made just for him. It is hard to remember that Bajpayee is a healthy young man as he is thoroughly convincing as an old and frail one here. Apart from him, Santosh Juvekar leaves an impression in his negative avatar and his robust depiction of the Marathi manoos reminds you of Bunty from Sacred Games. It is also interesting to note how Makhija did not refrain from laying out the backstory of this character who barely gets any sympathy from the audience. He is, after all, an important part of the story and it is necessary to learn how a villain comes to be.

A bitter pill to swallow

If you are not used to slow-paced films, you may take some time to like Bhonsle. Do not watch this movie expecting to be entertained but rather to be shaken to your core.

Devashish Makhija’s spine-chilling drama merits a watch for its raw depiction of migrant politics and for Manoj Bajpayee’s performance in it. The actor proves once again that there has not been a role yet that he cannot pull off effortlessly and he certainly deserves all the applause for this one.

Director: Devashish Makhija
Writer: Devashish Makhija, Sharanya Rajgopal, Mirat Trivedi
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Santosh Juvekar, Ipshita Chakraborty Singh
Language: Hindi
Streaming on: Sony LIV