Every person aspires to have a house of their own. However, when it comes to the cities, even finding a rented accommodation can be a daunting task. The protagonists of this film Dhananjay (Ashok Saraf), Parshuram a.k.a Parshya (Laxmikant Berde), Sudhir (Sachin) and Shantanu (Sushant Ray) find themselves in a similar situation after they are thrown out of their existing accommodation by their obnoxious landlord Vishwas Sarpotdar (Sudhir Joshi).
This difficult situation leads Dhananjay and his friends to a flat owned by an old lady (Nayantara), who insists on renting the flat only to married couples. As a last resort, Sudhir and Parshya disguise themselves as women and pretend to be the better halves of Shantanu and Dhananjay respectively. And therein begins the struggle to ensure that their lie is not revealed to all and sundry. Their complex situation gets further compounded with the presence of two other women (Supriya Pilgaonkar and Nivedita Joshi Saraf) and the conniving nephew of the landlady (Viju Khote).
A story which has men masquerading as women has ample potential for double entendre gags. However actor-director Sachin Pilgaonkar deserves applause for avoiding the same and keeping the film a clean and fun filled affair till the end. For instance, there is a scene in which Viju Khote tries to act fresh with Laxmikant Berde who is in the guise of a woman. This was a scene that could have been crass and vulgar. But the film pulls off this and most of such tricky scenes in a way that would rarely make you squirm.
From the first scene itself, the film wastes no time in setting up the story. The various subplots of the film are also well merged into the film and rarely fail to make you laugh. The run ins which Ashok Saraf, Laxmikant Berde and co. have with Sudhir Joshi and their initial attempts to convince their new landlady that they indeed are married couples, stand out in particular. Sudhir Joshi’s portrayal of a rude landlord is perfect and may remind you of landlords of similar nature, whom you have may encountered at some point of your life.
The film borrows its plotline from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Biwi Aur Makaan starring Mehmoood and Biswajeet. Most of the Marathi films directed by Sachin have been remade from Hindi films. However, he often has made certain changes, which has helped these films become good if not better adaptations. Sachin’s Bhutacha Bhau which starred Laxmikant Berde, Ashok Saraf and Johnny Lever besides Sachin, was a remake of Dharmendra’s Ghazab and is a good example of a remake turning out to be far better than the original film.
A comedy works due to good comic timing, solid chemistry shared by its actors and some well written gags. And this film has all of the above mentioned things, due to which it works well. The duo of Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde has a legendary status in Marathi cinema, having worked in innumerable films, many of them being memorable including Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi. In this film too, they share a terrific chemistry especially when they play off against other actors in the film.
Be it the lead role, antagonist, a supporting role or the comic relief, there is no role which Ashok Saraf has not pulled off efficiently. And this film is no exception. The actor puts his deadpan dialogue delivery and comic timing to good use, gelling well with other actors including Laxmikant Berde and Sachin. Laxmikant Berde is efficient as always and complements the proceedings well with his comic timing. Watch out for the song below in which he pretends to be pregnant and is forced to partake in rituals meant for a pregnant woman or the scene in which Sudhir Joshi catches him while sneaking into the house. It must be said that actor Sachin looks and acts convincingly as a woman, especially due to certain feminine traits he uses for his performance.
The rest of the cast perform ably including Sushant Ray, Nayantara and Viju Khote. Ironically the actual women in the film which includes Nivedita Joshi Saraf and Supriya Pilgaonkar don’t get much to do and are cast mainly for the mandatory romantic angle. Among the leading ladies, only Ashwini Bhave who plays Ashok Saraf’s boss gets a meaty screentime. A special mention must be made of Arun Paudwal’s music which has a couple of hummable numbers, including Hridayi Vasant Phultana and the title song.
Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi is a hilarious comedy that will make you laugh every time you watch it. And it is especially recommended in case you are feeling down. It also makes an important point, by showing that comedies need not always be risque and indulge in double meaning jokes to be funny and successful.