Film: Pune 52
Director: Nikhil Mahajan
Cast: Sonali Kulkarni, Girish Kulkarni, Sai Tamhankar, Bharti Achrekar, Kiran Karmarkar
With its trailer, Pune 52 created a lot of stir, setting expectations high from a Marathi film that, at its ‘trailer’ value, looked radically different from the stuff we've been seeing. One of the most awaited Marathi films this year, Pune 52 left us with mixed feelings.
First up, the film proudly bears an A certificate from the censor board, an unlikely phenomena. And yet, you can be assured that this isn’t one of the regular naughty comedies with lewd jokes and cheesy innuendos. As sparkling rain falls on a dark figure in the shadows, we meet the protagonist Amar Apte (Girish Kulkarni), an agile private detective.
It is the early 90s, the world is changing and Amar is busy snooping on adulterous wives. His wife Prachi (Sonali Kulkarni) who is quite vocal about her frustration at being married to an unsuccessful man, is stuck between defending her choice to marry him to her parents and getting Amar to be the man she thought he was. Enter Neha (Sai Tamhankar), a sexy, suave yet demure woman who wants to be free from her cheating husband. While Amar tackles Neha's case, he grapples with an intense internal turmoil. His dreams and reality are out of sync, his marriage is frustrating. How does he find a way out? How does Neha help?
Belonging clearly to the Cinema Noir genre, Pune 52 is bold and path-breaking for Marathi cinema, but it leaves much to be desired. This film, unlike earlier films penned by Girish Kulkarni, has just a couple of characters. In a Deool or a Masala, you need a lot of dialogue to establish the quirks of the many characters. However in this film, each character needs a lot more showing than telling and yet, all they do is talk, talk, talk. The first half is successful in getting you to feel entrapped as the characters do and if that is the intention, great. But the plot of the film hasn’t even established itself in the first half, which leaves you wondering if the film will go anywhere at all. Post-interval, the film picks up pace and somewhat grips you with the thought of ‘what next?’.
The actors play to the plot brilliantly, especially Tamhankar who surprises with a very crisp, controlled performance. The film has been treated in a very composed and stylized fashion, and Mahajan deserves a pat on the back for using metaphors with camera angles to try and give the story another subtle layer.
What worked for me was the fact that a film as bold as Pune 52 is finally made for Marathi cinema and it was refreshing to see a film that wasn't dumbed down to a literal narrative of the events. What didn’t work for me, was the fact that the film was far too long, and in parts, tedious. Mahajan and the Kulkarni duo’s courage to make such a film is commendable. But we expected a bit more than just a hatke film.
Verdict: Watch to see a Marathi Noir film, but remember this ain’t massy fare!