Verdict: Enjoy elaborate sets and excellent performances.

Reconciling Hindustani and classical music is tough, but Subodh Bhave‘s directorial debut Katyar Kaljat Ghusali succeeds in amalgamating both of them. Doing justice to the wide range of Indian classical music, with its colorful melodies and variety, while taking the story forward is extremely challenging. Marathi cinema, predominantly known for its expressive style and social themes, finds a gem in this film portraying the vivid style of the musicians in royal courts.

The movie, based on the immortal play of the same name, has music composed by Vasantrao Deshpande, is brought alive by Shankar Mahadevan and Sachin Pilgaonkar, who play Pandit Bhanushankar and Aftab Hussein Bareliwale, known as Khan Saheb. The story is set in the 1700s, when the English influence was growing and Maratha power was on the wane. Set in the kingdom of Vishrampur, which is in the Deccan, the story is uniquely narrated by the Katyar (dagger), and her vision of the art forms in India. Panditji and Khan Saheb are contesting for the position of the Royal Singer of the Court. The holder of this title will live in a mansion and own the coveted dagger. 

As mentioned in the film, an artist has two sides- ego and comparison. The film essentially covers the ego, and how it trickles down in the family. An artist engrossed within himself is understandable, but he needs to ask questions of people, and most importantly, awaken them. The musical drama explores these issues in stunning locales in rural Maharashtra. 

Subodh Bhave, after starring in Lokmanya Tilak, this year, as Tilak himself, proves himself as a larger-than-life versatile character, the role of Panditji’s disciple Sadashiv Gurav in the film. He often matches Pilgaonkar on screen, many a time taking attention away from him. Mahadevan is effervescent as Panditji, growing on-screen throughout the film. A more self-effacing asset of the film is the relationship between Zarina (Amruta Khanvilkar) and Uma (Mrunmayee Deshpande), the daughters of the two singers, who also display commendable acting prowess. The film’s main takeaway is Sachin Pilgaonkar’s performance. He effortlessly plays Khan Saheb with as much venom as love in his character. Not one to give up, Khan Saheb believes in his art as Pilgaonkar does in his acting in the film.

The film has subtitles (in some theatres), often helping the user interpret the various songs, with fast transitions. A particular scene of mention is when a young Sadashiv and Panditji search for fireflies. The first half is crisp and quick, with most of the story conveyed through wonderfully crafted songs. At 2 hours and 41 minutes, the second half will seem to be dragging a little but picks up towards the end.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:

Bring in the New Year with a musical drama destined to change our views about artists. The film is also backed by rhythmic music, which stirs the heart.

– By Shlomoh Samuel