Natarang’ takes you into the life of Gunvantrao or Gunya as he is to everyone.
He is a farm laborer in a marriage that is as ordinary and impoverished as their existence. The only ‘real’ reality for him is the world of the ‘Tamasha’. For him it is not a sexual vent that is it is for other men. It is a world that enchants him and frees the artist inside him from the travails of his bedraggled life.
When their only source of income is threatened and encroached upon, Gunya takes upon the challenge of founding his own Tamasha group along with his sidekicks and under the mentorship of the character played by the known Marathi Poet, Kishore Kadam.
Penury and Ridicule notwithstanding, the group finally takes shape.
But Gunya will have to play the ‘Nachya’ in order for the group to survive at all A Nachya is usually an effeminate ( implied eunuch-like) character who provides comic relief as well as anchors the proceedings. The stigmata attached to the actor who plays this character makes it an uphill task for the group to find someone who is apt for it.
And so, Gunya, egged on the mentor must take on the crown of thorns. He undergoes a startling Physical and Mental transformation and breathes life into the part. Slowly but surely, the group becomes renowned. And money pours in. But the fame will of course come at the price of estranged loved ones, compromised fidelity and the eventual descend into the spiral of greed and dirty politics.
The screenplay is crisp and fresh. Being used to the occasional trauma of Bollywood, I couldn’t help but dread the moment when the melodrama would creep in. But it doesn’t.
And it has, to put it simply, balls. And by this, I refer to the script not shying away from exploring the taboo but forbidden territory of homosexuality and male sexual abuse hitherto unheard of in Marathi Cinema.
The Art Direction is meticulous. One can feel the soil of rural Maharashtra on the dusty terrains and the poverty of its farmers on sweat drenched torn vests of the characters. Painted is a schizophrenic pallet- from the monochrome huts to the psychedelic backdrops of the Tamasha
The cinematography avoids getting into fancy angles and keeps the frames wide and even in close frames involves the viewer from a first person perspective…again lending the movie a ‘theatrical’ effect more than a ‘cinematic’ effect.
And well, what about the cast? What CAN one say about the Tour de Force that is Atul Kulkarni. From his startling physical transformation to his body language..he is spot on in every scene. The man seriously can do no wrong! His buffed up body doesn’t go the cliché 6 pack way but oozes such a masculine rustic sexuality that.. well..ahem (get the drift) and his 180 as ‘Nachya’ is intense down to every nuance of his gait and eyes…to his outburst when a man makes advances towards him…to the silent award acceptance.
Kishore Kadam blends into the proceedings with such ease that all that you see on screen is the character, not an actor.
Sonali Kulkarni is superlative as the sensual danseuse, Naina. Her dancing skills, which form integral scenes, are worth more than a mention. The rest of the ensemble cast is potent and lend able support to the main cast.
The Music score by Ajay-Atul is towering and almost like a character on its own in the movie, dominating the proceedings sometimes. Involving the viewer in its own way and on a whole different level.
There are minor glitches in the second half where the proceedings seem to be rushed a bit or appear as editing goof ups. Certain episodes could have been elaborated…for eg, the Resurrection of the group after the downfall, Gunya’s own personal fight back after the traumatic life incidents. However, these are minor flaws in a movie that is to put it simply, magnificently made and more importantly, sincere and passionate.
I will save the last lines for the director, Ravi Jadhav for being unafraid in his treatment and not enslaving to clichés. The dialogue is in pure but difficult to understand rural dialect, lending authenticity but might alienate some viewers. However, even for folks like me, whose understanding of Marathi is less than perfect, putting a bit of two and two together can be rewarding. Kudos for avoiding clichés like an all forgiving wife and a weepy award acceptance speech. Finally someone in Indian cinema understood the fact that sometimes less is more!
And yes, a special mention to the lovely end credits featuring a montage of Tamasha artists down the ages… A very humble tribute.
The Team behind this movie- – Take a bow!
[Image courtesy: http://songsdownload.mahitv.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Natrang.jpg]