Ever since they released the trailer was released I was eagerly awaiting the screen adaptation of the iconic Marathi play-Natsamrat. The movie directed by Mahesh Manjrekar with Nana Patekar in the titular role is based on the Marathi play by the same name written by Kusumagraj .Does this Natsamrat come close to the one immortalized by Dr Sriram Lagoo in the original? Read on to find out.
The basic plot of the movie is that of Ganpatrao Belwalkar, a stalwart of theatre and his downfall after he decides to retire from his acting career. He gives up everything he earned to his children who desert him when he needed them the most. He then lands up in a pitiable condition. The story exemplifies the glamour industry by suggesting that fame is temporary. The same society which had praised him, has now forgotten him. The pride that he had in being Ganpatrao Belvalkar is shattered to such an extent that he now hesitates to reveal his true identity.
Given the kinds of films he has directed, I had a prejudice that Mahesh Manjrekar would try to cash in the emotional aspect of the movie neglecting the core concept. But unlike what I thought the movie does stick to the same. There is no doubt that the movie belongs to Nana Patekar. He is simply superb and this is probably his best performance ever. The “To be or not to be” speech reminded me of his very famous “Aa gaye mere maut ka tamasha dekhne” dialogue from Krantiveer, albeit a less aggressive one!
All his soliloquies are brilliant. He makes you laugh with his one liners,which would not have been that funny if they weren’t delivered with the perfect timing as he did. And he makes you weep in the emotional scenes (I could hear quite a few members sobbing during the movie, especially of the opposite sex). The chemistry between Nana Patekar and his wife played by Medha Manjrekar is a highlight of the movie, not only because its writing but also because of its performance. She compliments him well and in certain scenes even goes a notch better than him. The other thing that impresses is the chemistry between Nana Patekar and his best friend played by Vikram Gokhale. One particular scene where, Vikram Gokhale is on his death bed and they enact one of their favourite scenes is nice. The other characters are decent as well.
The movie works mainly because of the excellent original plot and writing by Kusumagraj. There are bound to be comparisons between the play and the movie. Having seen both, I feel both are good in their own ways. It would have been a pleasure to see Dr Sriram Lagoo perform something like this live. We can only imagine the claps he garnered from each of the soliloquies. Thanks to YouTube the play is available for streaming for free.
The play has more soliloquies than the movie and it probably had more impact when it was performed live. Do watch this one irrespective you watch the movie or not. On the other hand you get to see Nana’s excellent acting up close in the movie. Thanks to Mahesh Manjrekar, we get to relish this wonderful script. It does get a bit melodramatic and “Baghban”ish in a few parts but then that’s accepted. In fact most of the audiences relate quite well with old age issues and this might turn out to be a major reason that this turns out to be a commercial success.
Thanks to movies like Natarang, Balgandharva, Katyar Kaljat Ghusali and now Natsamrat, audiences can have an insight into Marathi theatre. Be it Guna from Natarang, Narayan from Balgandharva, Khansaheb from Katyar or Ganpat Belwalkar from Natsamrat, the passion of these artists , their eccentricities are something inherent to the theater. The big screen has definitely benefited from the theater. Hopefully in the coming days the vice versa happens too and the now forgotten Marathi rangamanch gets its old glory!!