After watching the first few minutes of director Anup Jagdale‘s Zhalla Bobhata, one really cannot decipher the story the film intends to tell or where it is headed towards. There is a village that has won the Best Village award even as villagers ironically continue to face water scarcity and other issues. The corrupt Sarpanch (Kamlesh Sawant), his aide (Sanjay Khapre), an influential politician (Teja Deokar) and the village bumpkin Dinu (Bhau Kadam) are some of the characters the film introduces us to during this while.
The story starts falling into place with the entry of Appa (Dilip Prabhawalkar), an eccentric but a well intended senior citizen residing in the village. Be it shutting down illegal liquor shops, pan shops or making the village truly defecation free, Appa always takes the charge to reform the village much to the chagrin of the other residents. This leads to the other residents conspiring to oust Appa from the village. One night Appa overhears a conversation that threatens to trigger a large scale conflict in the village. But he loses consciousness before he can dig deeper into it. The villagers who are curious to know more about this secret try in vain to help Appa regain consciousness.
The film reminds you of the several Makarand Anaspure, Bharat Jadhav films that were set in a similar rural milieu. Filled with loud comedy, characters and often technically inept, these films also gave a social message (often forced) and were made with an amazing regularity till a few years ago.
Zhala Bobhaata also operates in a similarly loud tone and sees several colourful characters fill the frame. Yet unlike most of the village themed comedies, the film is technically sound and Krishna Soren‘s cinematography deserves a special mention. But one wishes the background score had been toned down for the sake of your eardrums.
The gags especially in the first half of the film often manage to make you smile. A scene in which the Sarpanch, Dinu and others remember their encounters with Appa is quite chuckle worthy. Some of the incidents that unfurl post Appa’s confession also make you smile. The film’s setup provides ample opportunities to use double entendres. But thankfully Jagdale and screenplay writer Arvind Jagtap largely resist this temptation. Even in a sole scene or two, when they resort to it, they stop right before it gets sleazy.
But the film stumbles as it moves ahead and suffers from the much maligned curse of the second half. One never really gets to know the ailment Appa suffers from which leads him to regaining consciousness in irregular intervals. There is also a subplot of the resident young lovebirds Pasha (Mayuresh Pem) and Priya (Monalisa Bagal). Their love story starts well and has a few chuckleworthy moments especially when Pasha is caught red handed by the Sarpanch which follows his attempts to escape. But it soon gets monotonous as the latter scenes which involve the couple appear to be force fed into the narrative.
Blame it on its stupendous success, but post Sairat, any film depicting a teenage love story invokes a sense of deja vu. One experiences a similar feeling while watching the love story of Pasha and Priya in this film, though it may not entirely be the fault of Jagdale and Jagtap. But the song Painjan which features the young couple has been well shot.
The film sails smoothly largely due to the competent casting. Dilip Prabhavalkar brings a certain eccentricity to his performance and elevates a stereotyped role. Bhau Kadam makes you smile with his mere presence and a dead pan comic timing, yet again making the most of a role which he can sleepwalk through. Similarly the other actors such as Kamlesh Sawant, Mayuresh Pem and Sanjay Khapre chip in with fine performances.
Jagdale intends to convey the hypocrisy and prejudices prevalent in the society in the course of the film. He also intends to make a statement on adultery and the misplaced priorities we have as a society. Though well intended, it comes across as half baked due to the manner in which they are weaved into the narrative. Had it been better thought of, this would have been a far better film. Keeping aside the half baked moral preaching, Zhalla Bobhata offers quite a few laughs and can be watched if you are in the mood for the same.