Devashish Makhija shows us the dirt and the dinghy face of Maharashtra through films like Ajji or Bhonsle. In both the narratives, we are witness to lengthy shots focusing on the dilapidated state of residential areas, soiled utensils, filth in the nooks and corners of streets. The most notable among them is the greasy dent in the ceiling of the room where Bhonsle kaka lives, which prompts him to put a stained saucepan beneath it time and again to hold the leaking water. The director shows us, through his frames, the lives of people whose existence amounts to diurnal survival.
Coming to the film, it is a gut-wrenching portrayal of three underlying crises. The ethnic discrimination of the Biharis by a section of Marathi reservation activists forms the base layer, with the working class struggle forming the circumcircle around it. The third, and the interesting layer, is a narrative of revenge which is a reflection of personal justice. This layer ends up in another comparative analysis of this film with Ajji. In both the narratives, an ordinary being takes the law in each of their hand, and the resultant end amounts to a disturbing culmination. Ajji and Bhonsle Kaka turn out to be people we get the strength to look up to, even in extreme situations.
Manoj Bajpayee‘s performance in Bhonse demands another comparative analysis, that with his own performance in Aligarh. The quietness of Bhonsle Kaka and Professor Siras almost add up to create one single character scape, but the major contrast lies in the outlook of the two. While Bhonsle had the power to stand against what is wrong, Siras tried to avoid those who wrongly accused him for being homosexual. The latter is a man whose silence speaks out loud, while the former’s silence is direct and rigid. But, taking everything into consideration, Manoj Bajpayee is the man who has the ability and excellence to portray these linear characters with a powerful stability.
The other person who stands out with his inimitable performance is Santosh Juvekar. Vilas is a character whose layers are very definite, and it’s written in such a manner that the audience will have a small corner of pitiful sympathy towards him, even when he is painfully antagonistic. Juvekar does justice to one of the most intensely written characters in Indian films. The sequence where Juvekar waits for his Bhau, while being utterly ignored, is so well performed that I watched it twice in a row.
Bhonsle is streaming on Sony LIV. Do watch it for all that it has to make you go through. This is one of the most important films made in the past few years.