In the culture of overpowered, muscular actors and pretty actresses, tossing exploding vehicles and poorly penned item songs, it would be easy to exhaust films. There are, however, gems of films, albeit underrated, that come out of the industry. Here is a list of such films, making for an excellent evening of some quality entertainment!
1) Ship of Theseus: Anand Gandhi’s directorial debut is “not a movie everyone is prepared for”, in the words of Kiran Rao, the producer. The movie, named after the Theseus ship paradox, explores the lives of three individuals who have had organ transplants. Aliya is a blind photographer who loses her inspiration when she gains eyesight after a cornea transplant.
Maitreya is a monk who vehemently protests against animal testing. When he is afflicted with liver cirrhosis, he needs medication tested on animals and a transplant, to which he refuses. Lastly, there is Navin, who chances upon a black market organ racket after receiving a kidney. The movie explores conflicts between right and wrong, ideal and practical, morality and reality, among other themes. It has extremely witty dialogues that explore multiple philosophical ideologies; the characters themselves seem to represent ideas. It is a beautiful blend of humour and depth, with the idea of “Mental masturbation” brought up when a character delivers an especially deep dialogue.
2) Natrang: This national award-winning Marathi movie was the directorial debut of Ravi Jadhav. This movie is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by Dr Anand Yadav.
Revolving around a Tamasha group in a Maharashtrian village, this movie is a feast for the ears, eyes and emotions. A tamasha is essentially a form of folk theatre involving acting, singing and instruments, Lavani (Folk dance of Maharashtra). It leads us through one such amateur group’s success, and they go through ostracisation, political struggle, and bankruptcy. The protagonist, Atul Kulkarni, does an amazing job of turning from the bulky, majestic farmer into a eunuch for the sake of his art. Themes of Art, Passion, Identity, Social norms are explored without ever leaving aesthetics. This movie is a must-watch for any art lover, packed with catchy songs from Ajay-Atul and foot-tapping Lavani sequences.
3) Ankhon Dekhi: Sanjay Mishra starrer Ankhon Dekhi is built around a unique concept. The protagonist, after a certain incident, declares that he will only believe what he has seen.
He follows it up, too; he goes to a national park to see for himself if a lion actually roars. He dismisses prasad as ‘mithai’, and after initial cynicism, garners follow for himself. Amidst all the humour, though, there is the pain of economic struggle, familial bonds, coming of age of children. The film’s end can be considered open-ended, but the filmmaker has smartly foreshadowed the same from the beginning of the movie. Mishra’s character does not come off as a cynic, but something of a tired and hilariously confused man, looking for sense in his life.
4) Fandry: Yet another Marathi movie, Fandry delicately explores the caste system in Maharashtra. This is done through developing a young boy’s love for a girl belonging to a different class. He happens to be of a lower caste and she of a higher one.
The child helps his family’s financial situation by selling ice candies after school and helps them in their profession of chasing pigs strayed into the village. His caste is a source of great shame to him, and he tries hiding it from his crush throughout the entire movie. There are instances where he is utterly humiliated, inequality of opportunity glares viewers in the face. However, the movie maintains its tone of innocence and pangs of young love. It is all the more heartbreaking because the film does not demand sympathy; it evokes it by showing something so utterly pure and innocent that gets shattered due to senseless social structures. A fresh take on showing caste issues, Fandry is definitely a must-watch.