Katyar Kaljat Ghusali: Does the dagger make an impression?

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali is based on a famous Marathi play by the same name. The issue with remakes/ sequels is that they come in with lots of expectations. The original Marathi play, Katyar Kaljat Ghusali is considered as a milestone in the history of Marathi theatre and hence lots was expected from this film. It was brave of Subodh Bhave to choose such a project as for his debut as director. The trailer looked very promising, Shankar Mahadevan being the being the surprise element. Does the movie successfully recreate the magic of the play? Read on to find out.

Katyar-Kaljat-Ghusali 1The movie is set in the British era, in a small town,Vishrampur in Maharashtra. The King of Vishrampur decides to honor the best singer in his Kingdom with a huge mansion, the post of the “Raj Gayak” and a dagger (the Katyar). The dagger comes with special privileges, the person who owns the dagger is allowed to get away with one murder. The King probably meant this for the artist’s self-defense, but he frames his sentence loosely (this has implications in the latter part of the movie).  The obvious choice for this award is Panditji played by Shankar Mahadevan, who is the local singer, loved and respected by all. Panditji comes across a struggling singer Aftab Hussain Bareliwale (Khansaaheb, played by Sachin Pilgaonkar) and invites him over to Vishrampur.  Khansaheb accepts his invitation but despises Panditji and his stature. He accepts the challenge for a duel with Panditji for the position of Raj Gayak. After 14 years of defeat and  humiliation he does manage to get the position, albeit by treachery.  Panditji gives up singing and leaves the town with the vow of not returning back again. How did the Pandit lose? Why does he renounce singing? Will Khansaheb be able to defend his title? Does Panditji return back? Does the Katyar taste blood ? If yes whose blood is it ? For that you need to watch the movie.

The movie is a musical masterpiece. The real star of the movie is the music, overshadowing all other departments and performances. The original music by Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki is no doubt brilliant. Even Shankar Ehsaan and Loy have done an excellent job, probably this is the first time they have stepped into such a genre. Their compositions are on par if not better than those made by Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki.!! Each and every composition is superb. This is backed by the mesmerizing voices of Shankar Mahadevan and Rahul Deshpande, complemented by Arijit Singh and Divya Kumar. A major reason I did not get company for the movie was that it was a movie based on “classical music” which makes it boring. I would like to clear the misconception that although classic music is the base of the movie, its soul is the artist, his passion which manifests in different forms. Passion for which the artist would not hesitate even to put a dagger in his opponent’s heart. It will keep you glued to your screens and there is never a dull moment, the movie reaching a crescendo at its climax.

The backing that Marathi cinema has got from big production houses like Zee Studios has proved to be a boon. The production design of the movie is superb. The retro-styled sets and locations are a pleasure to watch. Nowhere does the grandeur seem less than that what you would have seen in any Bollywood movie. These production houses also see to it that the film is publicized in the appropriate way and that has helped the outreach of Marathi cinema.

Obviously any amount of money would not compensate for poor performances. Accepted that all the artists were standing on the shoulders those who made the original play, but then they could have fallen from there. But they rise, and how well! Subodh Bhave does an excellent job in his debut venture. There are many clap-worthy moments, thanks to some brilliant dialogues too.

Katyar-Kaljat-Ghusali_02The central character of the story is Khansaheb. Fun fact: This character was played by Vasantrao Deshpande in the original play, whose grandson Rahul Deshpande lends his voice to the character in the movie. The movie revolves around the graph of this character; the humble start he has,his jealousy with Panditji, the humiliation he suffers, his victory and the pride that follows, his swollen ego, his insecurity when his post is threatened. And in contrast to this is Panditji and his disciple (played by Subodh Bhave himself). The former is talented yet down to earth, the latter is a raw talent who would go to any extent to learn and all that he needs in life is appreciation from his Guru. Sachin Pilgaonkar plays the part of Khansaheb to perfection. He takes you along in the character’s emotional journey. What else do you expect from someone who has spent 53 years in the film industry which probably must be a record of some sort. Subodh Bhave is good as he always has been. The surprise package is Amruta Khanvilkar, who shares a lot of screen space with Sachin, especially in the latter half of the movie. Now coming to probably the only thing that doesn’t work for the movie, Shankar Mahadevan. Thanks to auto-tune, Bollywood actors can try singing (and kisiko pata nai chalega) but then you can’t do the same thing with acting. Shankar Mahadevan is a total misfit. Yes that’s not his comfort zone and people can praise him for acting well but then a mainstream actor in his place would have had a better impact then what Shankar Mahadevan has.

Overall it’s a very well made movie and is definitely worthy of the theatres. The play would have been even more pleasurable. Nothing beats the live feel of theatre and blessed are those who have seen this live. The next such venture is Natasamrat. Will team Nana Patekar-Mahesh Manjrekar recreate the magic of the epic play? Eagerly waiting for the 1st of January to find out!!

P.S. The movie for some weird reason had English subtitles even in Maharashtra. These seemed annoying to begin with but then they proved to be quite useful. Understanding the Urdu and Marathi lyrics made the songs an even more pleasurable experience!

Dr.Amar Udare

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