Natsamrat (2016) Marathi Movie Review: To Be Or Not To Be

In one of the scenes, Ganpatrao Belwalkar (Nana Patekar) is watching a modern day adaptation of a Shakespeare play, the name of which we are never told. Being a reputed and acclaimed stage actor, Belwalkar is expected to mentor the lead actor and endorse his acting, writing talents or the lack of it. This is also expected of him with an intention of helping his dutiful son in law (Sunil Barve) win a few more brownie points with his boss, whose son (Jitendra Joshi) is directing and enacting the play. But being the theatre thespian and an upright individual, Belwalkar is disgusted by watching this seemingly pedestrian Shakespearean adaptation and makes no qualms about expressing his displeasure publicly. He also gives Joshi an earful and asks him to get into the soul of Shakespeare’s verse, rather than doing a hack job of it. Understandably, the other people around him are not pleased and accuse Belwalkar of being stuck in a time warp and hence being unable to appreciate this adaptation. How one wishes director Mahesh Manjrekar himself had paid heed to the above advice while directing this film.

Natsamrat 1Based on the famous play Natsamrat (King Of The Stage), written by the legendary playwright V V Shirwadkar, the film tells the story of Belwalkar who retires after an illustrious career as a stage artiste. Intent on living a peaceful life post retirement with his wife Kaveri (Medha Manjrekar), Belwalkar gives away all of his property to his children Makarand (Ajit Parab) and Vidya (Mrunmayee Kulkarni). However, Belwalkar and his wife become a burden to their children and are left at their mercy and ultimately to fend for themselves.

Marathi theatre is well known for several of its illustrious plays and one really wondered why filmmakers never really hit upon the idea of adapting them for the silver screen. Thankfully, filmmakers have slowly started realizing this and Natsamrat after Katyar Kaljat Ghusali happens to be the second cinematic adaptation of a famous play in recent times. I was keen to watch the play before watching the film, blame on it my laziness that it didn’t happen though.

The core subject of the film is of children neglecting their parents in their old age. I am also told that though parental neglect was an important constituent of the play, it largely dealt with the decline of an actor post an illustrious career. There is no harm in making the issue of parental neglect the mainstay of the film, since it is an issue which exists in our society even in this day and age. Moreover, we, the Indian audiences are suckers for melodrama and often accept the same happily. And with the right amount of restraint, even melodrama can be pulled off convincingly. But the film’s dated and clichéd approach makes it a severely melodramatic and dated affair.

Barring Nana Patekar most of the characters in the film are half baked, clichéd and reek of stereotypes. Be it his son, daughter in law (Neha Pendse), these are just a few examples of such characters the film is replete with. The only characters who seem to be well fleshed out are Ram Bhau (Vikram Gokhale) – Belwalkar’s best friend and a fellow stage actor, Mrunamayee Kulkarni and Sunil Barve, though they also end up becoming a bit of stereotype as the film ends.

Natsamrat 4

I fail to understand why do films including the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Baghban (this film may remind you of Baghban at several instances) which deal with the issue of parental neglect, resort to depicting the children and especially their wives as such annoying stereotypes. One does understand that the intent is to show the negligent and selfish attitude of the younger generation towards their elders, but why does the representation have to be so clichéd, reminding you of the dozen TV serials with similar themes that are played regularly. The film also has several other characters such as Siddhartha (Sarang Sathye) and the sympathetic drunkard (Sandeep Pathak) which are either half baked or exist without much reason.

The conflicts in the first half which lead to the abandonment of the parents also seem forced at several instances, making one wonder why didn’t Manjrekar choose to focus much on the decline of the famed stage actor instead.

But Manjrekar does deserve some praise for depicting Belwalkar’s relationships with his wife and Rambhau with a much needed sense of warmth and grace. Belwalkar and Rambhau’s friendship which is replete with constant chiding, yet a deep sense of bonding and respect for each other is undoubtedly one of the better things about the film. The terrific camaraderie between Patekar and Gokhale is what makes it even more memorable. Vikram Gokhale is excellent as the close confidante of Belwalkar, who is saddened by the demise of his wife and the betrayal of his best friend by the latter’s own children. Similarly, Medha Manjrekar and Patekar also share a good chemistry and often your heart does yearn out for them as they try to make sense of their life in their autumn years. But the one thing that mars it is Medha Manjrekar’s performance which appears stagey at several places.

Some scenes also leave a lump in your throat, such as the scene in which Vidya accuses her father of stealing money. The gleeful manner, with which Belwalkar plays and spends time with his granddaughter, is also heartwarming and may remind one of a similarly joyous time spent with their grandparents during childhood.

It is sad to see talented actors like Sandeep Pathak and Jayant Wadkar (as a domestic aide) being wasted in inconsequential roles. How one wishes they had been utilized more effectively in the film. Among the other actors, Kulkarni and Barve leave an impression, but are let down by their ill written roles.

Natsamrat 2

Adapting a play for the big screen is always a risky proposition, since stage plays are a live medium and has a bigger advantage of making an impression among the audiences. The tropes, scenes and moments that work in a play, may backfire in a film. The play Natsamrat is best known for its famous soliloquies, including the much famous To Be Or Not To Be and Kuni Ghar Deta Ka? (Can someone give a shelter), the latter was also referenced in the story directed by Dibakar Banerjee for the anthology film Bombay Talkies. Nana Patekar has done a phenomenal job with delivering these soliloquies in the film and it is due to this; they don’t seem forced or out of place in the film, despite its theatrical nature.

In several of his interviews, Nana Patekar has often spoken about Natsamrat being a dream role and one he desired to do someday. And it seems like the veteran actor’s dream has indeed come true with this film. Be it the politically incorrect theatre thespian who isn’t afraid to express his opinions frankly, the grandfather who dotes on his granddaughter, an aging patriarch who is hurt by the betrayal of his children and grieving the loss of his wife and his best friend and ultimately the lonely street dweller who is slowly but surely approaching insanity, there are several shades to this character. Patekar has done a phenomenal job in conveying the pathos and the various stages of the character and it undoubtedly ranks amongst his finest performances ever. As the film ended, I saw quite a few people leaving the theatre teary eyed, such is the impact of his performance. How one wishes the rest of the film had matched upto Patekar’s phenomenal act.

If not for Nana Patekar’s performance, the film is not much different from the clichéd and melodramatic family sagas which our audiences are subjected to with a tiresome regularity. And that’s such a disappointment, considering this is a cinematic adaptation of such a highly acclaimed Marathi play.

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16 thoughts on “Natsamrat (2016) Marathi Movie Review: To Be Or Not To Be

  1. I feel the same about the film. I really wonder what has made people go gaga over it. Mahesh Manjrekar after Kaksparsh again has taken up a good subject and spoilt it with his loud direction.

    • Yes several people on Facebook have been pissed off with me for deriding a supposedly great film. Even I agree that Manjrekar often takes a good subject and messes up with it.

  2. Very balanced review this is Aditya,I think its easily one of your best film reviews. Can’t disagree with your take on the film. Despite not having seen the play on which the film is based I felt a severe sense of deja vu thanks to the theme which has been nearly beaten to death in various films. But despite all this its still watchable for the reasons you’ve so rightly mentioned.

    • Thanks a lot for your praise.. I am humbled. Yes even I haven’t seen the play…but it is hard to not get that feeling of deja vu. I feel the story of Nana Patekar and Vikram Gokhale can be made into a standalone film.

      • Well, Aditya I feel you did not understand the depth of this movie. How can you even compare this film with Baghban? That film is so shallow.. I feel just because you are critic, no need to criticise it. I wish if you could understand the meaning of the dialogues and depth of acting. Your review looks unnecessarily critical..

  3. I agree with Sujay Desai, I think Aditya you did not understand the meaning of words in movie, you cannot compare this movie with Baghban.
    Comparing it with Baghban shows your immaturity and non deserveness to write a review for movies.

    • Sujay – Please explain the depth of the dialogues and acting, I am all ears. Would really love to listen to your explanation of the same since as of now it is isn’t making sense to me. Much like Baghban, the character of the daughter in law especially is quite shallow and reminds one of the painful saas bahu TV serials as I said earlier. I have critiqued the things which I felt rightly deserved to be. Perhaps you overlooked my praise of Nana Patekar, & Vikram Gokhale’s performances and a few good things in the movie.

      Subodh – Perhaps I am quite naive and ignorant enough to understand the meaning of the words unlike you and maybe you could help me understand the so called depth and greatness of the film. Just because the film is based on a great play and contains some great performances, do not overlook the flaws in the film which includes an overload of cliches and melodrama. If despite being based on a great play, the film fails to make much of an impact, the fault is that of Mahesh Manjrekar and his team who were not able to upgrade it to today’s times

      So many of the characters including that of the Neha Pendse seems straight out of a done to death TV Serial. Fact is the story is as old as the hills even if it is based on a great play and similarly your refusal to accept that shows your immaturity as an audience member. And if you do not think it is similar to Baghban, and feel Natsamrat should not be compared to it then I would suggest please emerge from the rock under which you had been living for such a long time. Maybe you could write a review and show how deserving you are of writing a review. And since you consider yourself a mature member of the audience, I hope you would have watched Umesh Kulkarni’s Highway, Atul Kulkarni’s Rajwade And Sons – two very good films released last year which didn’t find much love from the audience. Waiting to hear your response on the same.

  4. In todays so called modern culture — I felt this story you can find in your neighborhood easily.. open your eyes and feel the pain suffered by those parents, so only thing that hold me on watching this saga, was the Great Acting performance delivered by Nana Patekar ji… I still recollect other characters those helped him to survive post his wife’s death —- Ruksana, Raja and yes, Siddhartha, small stint but effective one!

    • I agree that we can find a lot of such people around us. And the pain was effectively conveyed by Nana Patekar and as I have said the performances makes largely oversee the flaws of the film. The characters you have mentioned such as Rukhsana and Raja were interesting but never well developed, which is why they didn’t stay with me after the film ended.

  5. I must say poor attempt of run down great story and performance, you have audacity to write about something on which you have no knowledge, first of all comparing this with bagbaan is bike joke because this movie is remake of great Marathi play which is around from more than 40 years, hope I don’t have to remind you when baagbaan was relased, it’s good to have a diffrent opinion than majority but first get your facts together.

    • My dear sir, I am very much aware of the facts. Sure the play is very old and quite a few films have used this story in various permutations and combinations. But even then, if the makers have not taken efforts to update it with times, then it is sheer foolishness on the part of the makers. And not to forget the painfully cliched depiction of the characters of the daughter in law and the son among others.

      No matter how much ever the play is great , the fact is the film does have similarities with Baghban and other similar films. If you do not agree with that or refuse to do so, then it is sheer stupidity and foolishness on your part. And a comparison with Baghban is a fault of the film and not the play, since they have not made an effort to update it to the current times. Hope you understand that.

  6. Aditya, Some characters were half baked for a reason they were not needed. director didnt want to show another baghban or family drama , mahesh manjarekar is not a wannabe director that he failed to show all the characters. this movie is about Natsamrat – an actor praised as emperor of all actors . at end you can see He(Natsamrat) didnt beg for mercy or help of people. he called ceasar, othello, sudhakar etc that,” i presented your grief to whole world i gave you identity i allowed you to live in my body now its my turn , my grief is as true as yours but there no one to see me on the STAGE”. frankly to understand the movie you should be fluent in marathi since its a play from marathi literature. i personaly believe nana justified the role of natsamrat and better than dan anyone else and director wins too.

  7. Oh my god what a performance by nana. It’s his best movie performance till date. I like d screenplay of d movie .n there r some scenes which are classic. N nana acting is extra ordinary. If mahesh is planning d hindi version he should give d natsamrat role to amitabh. Bec v hv already seen nana playing that role wl b v interesting to see how bachchan wl play that role. Bec he is known to play that type of roles n that role wl really suit him.

  8. You may as critics can write pages of analysis……but as critic to your own writing put few lines and accept greatness of this movie.

  9. Now what I have understood in all these comments is Aditya is a critic…….and he will die to prove that. However, all said, critics should be there to understand the other side of the story….but now a days critics act like politicians…..oppose for the sake of opposition. Aditya accept this…..Natasamrat is a masterpiece, you have to accept that

  10. After seeing all these comments……I have reached to a conclusion that Aditya will die for what he says, because he is a critic and that is good..we need critics to know the other part of the story…..but now a days critics act like politicians….they oppose for the sake of opposing….but Aditya this movie is a masterpiece, an epic..Critics always see from the point of criticism, in other way that is what is selling now a days in market

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