Film: Masala (Marathi)
Director: Sandesh Kulkarni
Cast: Girish Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash, Hrishikesh Joshi, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Dr Mohan Agashe, Jyoti Subhash
With their recent win at National Awards the pressure is on the Kulkarni duo — Umesh and Girish, who have presented some delectable cinema over the last few years. And in the quest to present relatable, honest cinema, they’ve set up their own production company whose maiden production Masala, just like their earlier films, uses generous helpings of metaphor to narrate Rewan (Girish Kulkarni) and Sarika’s (Amruta Subhash) story.
Rewan is a chronic businessman who, instead of finding a solution for a failing business, flees town with his wife Sarika every time the ship runs into rough waters. Sick of skipping town, his wife hopes they’ll make a home in Solapur where her cousin (Hrishikesh Joshi) is settled. After being a saree salesman, milkman, grocery store owner, balloon seller and many other things around various towns and villages in Maharashtra, Rewan settles in on selling masala peanuts to bars, restaurants and grocery stores.
Working as a team with his the brother-in-law and his wife, Rewan is on the brink of settling down but the nightmares of his creditors catching up with him don’t let him sleep at night.
A chance encounter with a Sethji (Dr Mohan Agashe) and a dash of honesty thrown in by Sarika who takes the front seat in solving their problem starts to change Rewan’s life, but he dreams of making it big, just like Sethji who tells him that the art of being successful lies in partnering and trusting the right people.
The director uses strong actors in cameos to leave a question mark on your mind. Like when Sushant Shende asks Kulkarni what his identity is and then elaborates, quite rustically and realistically, that if you leave your identity blank, you give the world the liberty to label you whatever it wants.
His subtle rhetoric and the ability to use ordinary things to put pertinent life choices into perspective is what possibly makes Girish one of the best writers in the industry. Even though he tells a simple tale, he effortlessly creates multiple layers and uses metaphor to bring out a depth to the story without sounding preachy or self-righteous.
The first half of the film flows engagingly but the second half, though dotted with various characters bringing enjoyable elements of comedy and philosophy to it, drags on for a long time. Also, towards the end, in an attempt to tie many loose-ends, the subtlety is lost and the obvious is stated. What could have been a great finish to an interesting story ends up being a garnish gone wrong on a perfect tadka.
That said, Girish Kulkarni’s comic timing, Subhash’s sincere performance and the enjoyable ironies which will make you laugh out loud make Masala worth a watch.