A classic is born again as after 76 years, Sant Tukaram looks to blaze the screens again in a new avatar. The makers know that living up to the predecessor is going to be a tall order and though it is not a remake, comparisons are inevitable
An epic Marathi film on Sant Tukaram, the revered saint and philosopher-poet of Maharashtra was made 76 years ago. So vast was its impact that it continues to have resonance to this day and is held up as a benchmark for future projects on the sant. In 1936, V Shantaram and the Prabhat Film Company had blazed a trail when they produced Sant Tukaram. For the present generation though, the Sant is making a comeback on celluloid with another Marathi biopic on his life. Today, the Sant sometimes called 'Tuka' by poets (do the diehards scream sacrilege?) is all set to blaze the screen again via Everest Entertainment, which has produced the new Tukaram, ready for a theatrical release by May 2012.
Devotion: Sant Tukaram continues to inspire
Director Chandrakant Kulkarni is directing the Marathi film with actor Jeetendra Joshi playing Tukaram. The cast comprises Radhika Apte, Veena Jaamkar, Sharad Ponkshe, Prateeksha Lonkar and Yatin Karyekar. Given the accolades the Prabhat Film Company project has received, it will be a tall order to live up to. It is "ambitious" says producer Sanjay Chhabria of the new project. Chhabria incidentally, has also produced films like, Mee Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy, Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho and Haapus.
Relevant: Sant Tukaram still resonates with audiences say the experts
Director Kulkarni says when asked why this film is being remade after 76 years, "The writers of this film, Aji Dalvi and Prashant Dalvi have been working on this subject for almost five years now. They put in a lot of research before actually putting pen to paper, and the final draft of the script took almost two years to take shape. So it has been a lot of hard work, a lot of thought and a lot of writing and re-writing. Tukaram is one of the most revered philosopher-poets from India, but not many know about the man Tukaram and his being. Our effort in the film is to tell a story about a man called Tukaram and his journey towards sainthood."
Tukaram leaves for Vaikuntha, abode of Vishnu
The moviemakers say that instead of being forgotten or relegated to the cobwebs of history, Sant Tukaram is very relevant today. They cite, "His unmatched genius" that stimulates the common man and the intellectual, both of who are still poring over his philosophy and abhangs (poetry) to find new meaning in them. They say, "It is precisely because he is so relevant that even in these 75 years after the first film, many writers have still penned works on him through all these years."
The new movie would not be tweaked in any way for a modern audience, but have a period flavour. Says Kulkarni "This is a period film set in the 17th century, and we have tried to be as authentic as possible on all possible fronts be it the language, the costumes, the look, the architecture, and even the sets. The message in the film is still very relevant for today's time and age. It is the simplicity of the story and the character of the man, which will catch the attention of the audience."
The spirit of Tuka lives on through his poetry. movie makers add that his greatness has been acknowledged by intellectuals and writers of diverse eras from Mahadev Govind Ranade to Dilip Purushottam Chitre. Writer Prashant Dalvi though says it is not just established poets; Sant Tukaram strikes a chord with the common man too. "His poetry originates from his life experiences and it talks about life, the social fabric, the social evils, and a humanitarian code of conduct, which is still very relevant and has not changed after centuries.
Period flavour: The film aims to evoke another era
Many prolific writers and intelligentsia have studied his work and continue to write about him and his literature which is evidence of his relevance." Dalvi says that his poetry forms a vital part of the film, which, "Captures his childhood, his youth, his domestic and personal life, how he got inspired to read and then write and write prolifically at that, his fight against social evils and his journey towards sainthood. So it is a complete graph of his life, which we have tried to capture in this film. Poetry of course, is a very integral part of the film. The language of the film has been kept very simple yet very authentic, so that each and every one is able to understand Tukaram and his philosophy. It is an honest and a very humble effort to tell his story from our side."
In the to-be-released movie, the entire first half is dedicated to understanding how Tukaram developed into a unique human being. For all those with writers block this should be inspiring: during a short life of 42 years Tukaram created a literary treasure trove of 4,500 abhangs. Living up to the predecessor of 76 years ago, Sant Tukaram, will be a tall order, considering its shadow continues to fall long on movie history and to carry forward its legacy will be very challenging.
In Bollywood especially, history has shown that remakes of classic movies often fall flat or do not taste the same success of the original. Yet, Sanjay Chhabria, producer of the current film clarifies, "This is not a remake. It is a film with a lot of thought, hard work, inspired original writing and a lot of referencing to create another era. The first Tukaram came 75 years ago, which is like seven decades ago. And most of this generation have not seen the earlier one, though comparisons might be tough to avoid. This one is a brand new film, with our own interpretation of the great man called Tukaram," he signs off.
About Sant Tukaram
Sant Tukaram (1608-1650) was a prominent Varkari Sant and spiritual poet during a Bhakti movement in India.
Sant Tukaram was born and lived most of his life in Dehu, a town close to Pune in Maharashtra, India. He was born to a couple with the family name 'More', the descendent of the Mourya Clan (Ambile) with first names Bolhoba and Kanakai. Kumar, Munshi, Kincaid and Parasanisa, consider him to be of the Vani or grocer caste.
In accordance with an ancient Indian tradition, Tukaram's family name is rarely used in identifying him. His real name is Tukaram Vhilhoba Aambe. Rather, in accord with another tradition in India of assigning the epithet 'sant' to persons regarded as thoroughly saintly, Tukaram is commonly known in Maharashtra as Sant Tukaram.
South Indian people know him as Bhakta Tukaram. Sant Tukaram and his second wife, Jijabai (also known as Avali), (his first wife died) had three sons: Santu or Mahadev, Vithoba and Narayan. The late Dilip Purushottam Chitre, a well-known Marathi scholar, identifies Tukaram as the first modern poet of Marathi. Chitre believed that Tukaram was the first acceptable saint who denied caste hierarchy in Hindu religion and attacked rituals present in Hindu Dharma.
The first movie
Sant Tukaram was also the subject of a biopic, title Sant Tukaram, made in 1936 by V Damle and S Fattelal of the Prabhat Film Company, starring Vishnupant Pagnis as the lead, and released on December 12, 1936 at the Central Cinema in Mumbai. The film was a big hit, and broke all previous records by running continuously for 57 weeks. It also had won an award at the 5th Venice International Film Festival in 1937, and still remains a part of film appreciation courses. It is preserved at the National Film Archive of India. The story of Tukaram was also made in Telugu as Bhakta Tukaram in 1973 by Anjali Pictures. Dr. Raj Kumar played the role of 'Santa Tukarama' in the Kannada language.
In an interview in 2007, to a dotcom, Dilip Chitre was asked about Sant Tukaram and the effect of his poetry. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
Q: Your translation of Tukaram continues to find an audience. What makes him so powerful, more than three centuries later?
Ans: Says Tuka was published first in the Penguin Classics Series in 1991. I have since rescinded my contract with them and another edition was brought out in hardcover as well as paperback a few years ago. It nearly sold out without any hype. My translations are already included in an anthology of world poetry published in the US, and a German translation by Lothar Lutze was published by A1-Verlag. Mexican poet-translator Elsa Cross translated Tukaram into Spanish using my English versions as her source. All this is due to the classic appeal of Tukaram -- the inherent greatness of his poetry.