Among the innumerable gods and goddesses worshiped by Indians, Lord Ganesha occupies a special place. Perhaps that is why the Ganesh Chaturthi festival continues to be celebrated with great pomp and fervour even today. That the public celebration of the festival has acquired quite a nuisance value in recent years is a discussion best left for another day.
With the festival still going on, there could not have been a better time for the film Vakratunda Mahakaaya to release. The film narrates the story of a bomber (Vijay Maurya) who places a bomb inside a Ganesha soft toy and leaves it in a temple. Mistaking it to be just a soft toy, a street urchin Altaf (Naman Jain) runs away with it and the hassled bomber tries his best to retrieve it. After Altaf and his friend Paplu (Nachiket Purnapatre) are picked up by the cops, the toy which is lying unclaimed is carried by several unsuspecting people throughout the city. Some of these characters are an adulterous wife (Prarthana Behere), a woman selling household items (Usha Nadkarni), a political leader (Rishi Deshpande) and a senior citizen (Jayant Sawarkar).
As the toy moves from one person to another, we get a glimpse into the lives of these people and the different opinions they have about Ganpati’s existence. Notable among these are the episodes involving Behere and Nadkarni who keeps encountering the soft toy at various places.
The scenes in which Maurya’s character tries to retrieve the toy from Altaf and Paplu are well shot, engaging and often hilarious too. However there could have been a better culmination to the exploits of Maurya and his partner in crime (Murari Kumar), who later come up with a few more terror attack plans. The film also tries to show how lack of security in public places and crowded spaces is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. This again is an idea that could have been explored in detail. Most of these issues crop up as the film nears its culmination which could have been better. Yet despite these drawbacks, the film is engaging and manages to hold your attention for most of its running time.
The film scores well in most of its technical departments. Cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani has done a proficient job with capturing the various locales and bylanes of Mumbai. Despite some snags in the the film, editors Apurva Motiwale and Ashish Mhatre manage to keep the proceedings crisp. The background music by Sanket Naik and Sankarshan Kini gels well with the proceedings of the film. A rendition of a famous Ganpati bhajan which plays towards the end of the film has been composed well.
Naman Jain seen earlier in Chillar Party and Jai Ho has an endearing presence and does well in the lead role. He has a tendency to be over enthusiastic, but director Punarvasu Naik manages to keep him under control. Vijay Maurya has always been a dependable performer and he acts ably in this film too. Among the other cast members, Nachiket Purnapatre and Usha Nadkarni manage to impress the most.
It is interesting to note that this is the first Marathi film produced by Anurag Kashyap, Sunil Bohra and Guneet Monga who have backed The Lunchbox and Masaan among other promising ventures in recent times. And it would be heartening to see them support more of such interesting Marathi films in the future.
One however wonders why the film took a long time to get a release (the film was premiered at the 2013 Mumbai Film Festival) despite having an appealing plot and being backed by the likes of Kashyap, Bohra and Monga among others. Nevertheless, the film has finally made it to the theatres and it mus be said that director Punarvasu Naik makes a reasonably good debut with Vakratunda Mahakaaya, which despite its issues is eminently watchable and manages to hold your attention.