Chandrakant Kulkarni, 38, started as a theatre director with plays like Charchoughi and Dhyani Mani to his credit. He also directed Vyakti ani Valli, a collage of pen portraits written by the late P L Deshpande, which were later packaged in a teleserial. Known for firebrand views and offbeat direction, he came into the limelight with his first Marathi film Bindhast, which had an all-woman cast. Bhet, based on short story by Rohini Kulkarni, is his second film.
It was a surprise to see your film in Mumbais Citylight talkies at Matunga, unlike most other Marathi films, which tap only the Bharatmata traditional audience. Did the strategy work especially since the movie is now only being screened in the matinee show?
Knowing fully well that a Marathi film will not draw huge crowds in the city, we have tried to make inroads into the citys Maharashtrian pockets, starting with Citylight, Bharatmata and Thane. We do not mind initial losses if it helps us to attract an estranged audience. In Mumbai and otherwise too, Marathi movies have never been on the priority list of a cultured Maharashtrian.
After our film settles in the four cinema houses in Mumbai and Pune, we will move into the small towns. Actually, a chain of small auditoriums would have best suited our purpose, but it becomes too expensive for Rs 65 lakh project.
Would it be right to say that you have aimed the film at the Maharashtrian middle-class and that this also governs your choice of story?
No, I am aiming at every Maharashtrian. The story presents a rich slice of life in few Maharashtrian homes placed in the small towns of Indore and Nagpur covering a span of 25 years. While the mother-son bond provides the focus, the movie also looks into other relationships.
Your earlier film, Bindhast, was an offbeat story. Would it be right to say that you have chosen a woman-based drama this time with commercial calculations in mind? Bhet helps you to claim to be different and yet gain the Maaherchi Saadi formula audience.
Bindhast worked because of the novelty factor. Its all-woman cast gave me the non-Marathi audience too. But I dont think that Bhet cashes in on the mother-son bond. In fact, it brings certain unknown human facets to the fore.
Do you think films like Bhet stand anywhere close to the technical proficiency seen in recent Hindi movies?
Marathi and Hindi movies are not comparable, neither in terms of economics nor in terms of audience appreciation. Most Hindi movies, however poor they may be in content, make the initial draw mainly because of the number of prints. Even before the movie is reviewed, certain numbers have already seen it. This logic does not apply to Marathi movies, which are anyway restricted in select pockets. Of course, it does not mean that Marathi films lag behind only due to poor finances. There is a need for a fresh vision to produce meaningful cinema, and even if five such efforts are made in a year, the faith of the audience can be won over. Bhet is one such effort.
Meet the parent
Sudha (Prateeksha Lonkar) seemingly settled in her new married life, still yearns to meet her son (Apoorva Korgave) who lives with her ex-husband (Atul Kulkarni). In a secretly-written letter, the teenager also declares his wish to see his real mother, which sets off a chain of angered reactions in his home. A predictable opposition emerges against the proposed meeting.
The over two-hour film goes back and forth in flashback to recapitulate the events leading to the mother-son meeting, which does take place after much emotional warfare. Although equipped with a good cast, some witty dialogues and refreshing outdoor shoots which do hold the audience initially Bhet fails to make an impact towards the end. The mothers single-point agenda to meet her son, overshadows the other domestic roles in which the film places her. Years after the meeting, she does not seem to regain her sense of perspective. While the societal pressures, which once kept them apart, no longer exist, both are still shown as pensive, recollecting a single past meeting.
The script gets simplistic towards the end when she hurriedly mouths sweeping generalisations about the younger generation. At a time when the Marathi film industry suffers from a lack of good scripts and financial support, Bhet touts an original focus on human relationships and the institution of marriage, but falls prey to overt sentimentalism and melodrama.