Some movies charm you with their honesty. You somehow are willing to look over their obvious flaws. You manage to gauge what the film wants to say despite its crudeness. Jana Gana Mana is one such film for sure.
The movie takes place in a very remote village in rural Maharashtra where Ramchandra Sontakke(Nandu Madhav) is a teacher with noble intentions. He dreams of a nation of educated kids. But he is posted in a school in a secluded place where he feels his capability of a teacher is not getting fully utilized. So he is striving to get a transfer to a school in his own village where his family also resides. One day, he is informed that a senior official of the education department would be visiting his school on the eve of the Independence Day. He recognizes this visit as a golden opportunity to impress the official and requests for a transfer. And thus begins his efforts to make the Independence Day celebrations in the school a grand event by making the kids march a parade, enact a patriotic play and singing the national anthem. One of the student in the school Katju(Chinmay Sant), who belongs to the commonly branded criminal community called ‘Pardhis’, gets completely involved in the preparations for the event. But Katju’s background and Sontakke’s will to get transferred doesn’t make the proceedings a smooth ride for either of them.
Now, the star of the show here is without doubt the magnificent Nandu Madhav of ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’ fame. He plays the simpleton and at times unintentionally funny Sontakke Guruji to perfection. A fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Sontakke appreciates anything with the words ‘aaha re Bachchan’. He rides everyday to the isolated school on his bicycle. The mannerisms adopted by Nandu Madhav write from the way his character rides a bicycle or even writes on a blackboard are pure joy. Courtesy him, there are quite a few joyful moments in the film especially when he is trying his best to teach his underprivileged students how to march and sing the National Anthem. His performance remains the single biggest factor why this film deserves a watch. The writer-director team of Sameer Joshi and Amit Abhyankar should be lauded for sketching and portraying on screen such a wonderful character.
Katju, played by Chinmay Sant, is a bright child though he comes from a socially and economically deprived background. He is so excited by the preparations for the Indpendence Day that he never fails to practice at home often involving his usually drunk parents in the proceedings. Chinmay Sant, with his Darsheel Safary like protruded teeth is charming but unfortunately his character gets a raw deal as compared to Sontakke Sir despite having a decent dream song sequence.
The attempt to understand the lives of the Pardhis through Katju and his parents(Santosh Juvekar and Madhura Velankar) is novel, but it could have been managed in a better manner. Quite often it treads into melodramatic territory. The other major weak point of the film is the omnipresent background score. You have a BGM for every single emotion. Some scenes involving Nandu Madhav get spoiled only because of the silly BGM.
But what the film excels in capturing is the state of primary education in rural areas. It tells how children come to school only because they can have a good meal because of the Mid-Day Meal program, the absolute lack of knowledge of any kind among them etc. But the film sheds light on these matters in a delightfully light manner which is definitely a positive.
Now, had the writer-director been a little subtle in their storytelling and not gone overboard on the emotional quotient Jana Gana Mana would have been a fantastic effort. But nevertheless the lack of craft in the filmmaking doesn’t hide the honesty behind this heartfelt work and it would surely appeal to all.