‘Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli’ review: Where is the punchline?

A still from Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The first of Mahesh Manjrekar’s two-part biopic of P.L. Deshpande (Sagar Deshmukh) begins with the voiceover of his wife Sunita Deshpande (Irawati Harshe) remembering their years of togetherness; a long journey, which far from leaving them exhausted and worn out, was about living life to the fullest with laughter as their constant companion.

For a man who led a “blissful” life, who gave joy to everyone and his own self, the structural fulcrum of this biopic then feels entirely at odds. It’s sappy and enervating, about him on his death bed in the hospital from where the audience is taken back to various significant situations and moments of his life - from his childhood pranks to his two marriage(s) to his association with various big creative names of the day and his own passion for music and theatre.

Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli
  • Director: Mahesh Manjrekar
  • Starring: Sagar Deshmukh, Irawati Harshe, Swanand Kirkire
  • Storyline: Biopic of the renowned Marathi writer, humorist, actor, singer, musician and orator P.L. Deshpande

For most part the film unfolds like a TV play or sitcom shot with a three-camera set up. Instead of cinematic flair that could have made it fly, the film is weighed down with an extremely static pace and old-school style and narration. As a result most of the characters too don’t feel rounded and forceful enough and actors seem hemmed in. Jabbar Patel, Kumar Gandharva, Bhimsen Joshi, Bal Thackeray as walk-on presences feel like a parade of cardboard impersonations than real people. Forget them even Pu La himself lacks punch, personality and character.

The one who stands out is his solemn, no nonsense wife Sunita. It’s when she enters the frame that some sparkle gets added to the proceedings with the repartee and sharp give and take of the twosome. Be it in the staff room, at a play rehearsal or their own wedding. It’s the marriage scene which is the most delightful part about the whole film, with the signatures being put to the paper and marriage registered in between boiling some milk for the tea. The fuss-free start to the relationship is utterly refreshing and charming. However, the troubles and conflicts within - his childlike ways and obsession with theatre to the point of ignoring Sunita’s pregnancy - needed to get better fleshed out.

Despite several hiccups, the first part does leave one on a high note with a fabulous rendition of Hindustani classical music in the finale--none other than legends like Kumar Gandharv (Swanand Kirkire), Vasantrao Deshpande (Padmanabh Bind) and Bhimsen Joshi (Ajay Purkar) jamming impromptu to “Sanware Aijaiyo Sanware”. Hope these high notes are carried forward in the second part and Pu La acquires the many shades that the multi-faceted talent was made of.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 10:58:21 AM |

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