Since the time he channelized his energy full time into Marathi cinema, Mahesh Manjrekar has contributed a lot to the Marathi cinema’s resurgence. His productions (Mee Shivaji Raje Bhosle Boltoy, Lalbaug-Parel, Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho and Fakt Ladh Mhan) have successfully touched the audience-chord with contemporary, socially relevant and thought-provoking themes. Often he has erred on being too populist in his presentation with a definite eye on the box-office. But now that he has established his production house as the commercial powerhouse, he goes for the jugular and shows that he also has it in him to create a perfectly artistic period-film like Kaaksprash.
Set in the 1930s, Kaaksparsh tells the story of the times and trends long bygone. It is a small village in Konkan, where tradition is everything. The predominantly Brahmin community in that village has been largely impervious to the Independence struggle raging in the nation. Their main concerns have just centred round religious festivals and rituals. In the village hierarchy, the central character of Hari dada (Sachin Khedekar) has always stood out as a man of reason and conscience, often going against the scheming dogmatic local priest. As per the prevailing traditions, Hari marries off his brother to a young pre-pubescent girl from a neighbouring village. Unfortunately the brother dies before the consummation of the marriage and now the widowed girl becomes the topic of hot discussion in the village community. As per the tradition, she would need to shave off her hair and lead a barren life devoid of any colour and laughter. But Hari steps in to oppose these outdated rituals and lets her lead a normal life. In this endeavor, not only does he upset the village elders but also his own wife and other close relatives. But still he stands his ground firmly. As the widowed girl enters youth and as Hari’s wife becomes bed-ridden with a terminal illness, the family relationships start getting entangled. Is Hari harbouring romantic notions for the widowed girl? Or is there something more than what meets the eye?
Seldom do we see movies where practically everything has gelled together so beautifully and so flawlessly. Kaaksparsh is one such movie.
Girish Joshi’s screenplay (developed from Usha Datar’s short story) creates a complex multi- layered old world, full of contrasts and contradictions. The locations, costumes, language, music and cinematography – all contribute to creating a perfect period-feel. It is a film that works on both, personal as well as social levels. On a personal level, we get caught up in an emotional storm brewing between various characters and on a social level, we are shaken out of slumber by the stark portrayal of some inhuman religious rituals, which once made widowed life a living hell.
Manjrekar’s subtle direction never once loses its footing and keeps the proceedings flowing without a trace of melodrama. The back-and-forth flashback-based story-telling unfolds the plot unhurriedly and keeps you intrigued right till the very end.
All the actors (Ketaki Mategaonkar, Gauri Bapat, Medha Manjrekar, Savita Malpekar, Sakharam Kulkarni, Abhijit Kelkar and Vaibhav Mangle) do full justice to their characters and deliver memorable performances. But as a man taking on the system and fighting against all, including his own self, Sachin Khedekar towers above all. Looking at him, you feel the strength of his character and the weight of his fate. It is a brilliant performance in an exceptional film that is every bit worthy of all possible awards!