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Movie Review: Rama Madhav (रमा माधव)

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In Brief: A period film on the life of Madhavrao and Ramabai, from the Peshwa family, with an emphasis on the love between the two. Aptly cast, it shows the machinations of the power struggle between feuding family members, their opulent indulgences, as also glimpses of social practices prevalent at the time that are considered taboos today. What far outweighs that, is that the movie brings out the grandeur of the era, the use of sheer ingenuity and immense valour against the enemy, the emphasis on justice and governance in favor of the ruled, and certainly not the least, ethereal love in the rarest of places.

In Details: History serves as a backdrop to this story of love between Madhavrao (Alok Rajwade), the Peshwa who reined as the chief trustee and administrator of the kingdom of Chatrapati Shahu, a decendant of the great Shivaji, from 1761 to 1772, and his wife Ramabai (Shruti Kalselar and - as grown up - Parna Pethe). The history being well documented already, the film seems to have conciously focussed on the softer and intricate aspects of the their life, and managed very well to bring that period to life. The child Rama, already married to Madhav, but staying with her parents, imbibes the teachings of her mother with maturity even as she frolicks with other children and demonstrates their application when she reaches the Shaniwarwada as her home for the first time. The incidents in her life in the wada are arranged in an intriguing sequence with never a dull moment. Given that the film was more than 2.5 hours which is quite a deviation in todays times of 2 hour rushes, I was wondering whether there might be a few parts that stretch more than they should, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that time flew and you didn't feel it. All aspects of her relationship with Madhav, as they grow together in love, are depicted very well. Their mutual love, her maturity towards their relationship and the family and his maturity towards her as well as a ruler are shown very well via various subtle incidents, a very difficult feat if you ask me. This is what makes the film a winner.

Next to Rama and Madhav's characters, the next important character is the gray portrayal of immensely capable Raghunathrao, Madhav's uncle and his rival in the struggle as the Prime Minister. Very impressive potrayal by Prasad Oak. Then there are quite a few characters in the family and they are accomodated well. Nanasaheb Peshwe (Ravindra Mankani), Madhav's father who takes his decisions leading to the Panipat defeat to heart, Gopikabai (Mrunal Kulkarni), Madhav's mother who is both counsel and firm administrator of the family, Sadashivrao Bhau (Dr. Amol Kolhe), Madhav's uncle who led the Marathas in the battle of Panipat and who's death is not confirmed, his wife Parvatibai (Shruti Marathe) who pines for his return even as she helps the family, Anandibai (Sonalee Kulkarni) who is wife of Raghunathrao and assists his ambition in order to win his love, Vishwasrao, the dashing elder brother lost unfortunately in the battle of Panipat, are but a few that stand out.

There are a few gotchas though, and I will let the viewers decide whether they are big or small. Like when Raghunathrao captures Madhavrao but their ensuing agreement is missing (lost in the editing?). And when Gopikabai declares she has a 'sautan' at a late age (she didn't seem to - was that a mistake in the dialogue ? or is that an oblique reference I didn't get?). Could they have avoided a few characters like the conspiring confidantes of Raghunathrao ? Did they really have to show that 'babaji' ill-advising superstitious practices to Raghunathrao ? And I am sure someone will find a few more of their own.

Despite these question marks, the film is fresh and lively, even 'aww cute' more than a few times, gripping throughout, all-in-all immensely watchable. And believable period music too. And an important message - [Love] is the only truth (इतुकेच खरे).

For Marathi viewers, this film is a time travel to the life representative of the core Marathi ethos, of the fine silky threads of familial and social ties, of ideal devotion, of fair rule, of persistent efforts and of winning. It is also a poignant reminder of erstwhile mistakes and yet another opportunity to learn and avoid them in the future. For the non-Marathi, this film could be another window through which to understand what moves the Marathi Manoos and see a glimpse of the finest of their culture and tradition in recent history.

Parental Guidance:
Violence: War scenes and some blood. Period weapons and a fight or two.
Language: Clean.
Nudity & Sexual content: An amorous 'item' song and few 'decent' man-and-wife scenes.
Concept: Love story based on life of Madhavrao Peshwa
General Look and Feel: Bright, Rich and Fresh.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):
Direction: 4.5
Story: 3
Lead Actors: 5
Character Artists: 4.5
Dialogues: 5
Screenplay: 4
Music Director: 4
Lyrics: 4

Tags: Movie, Review, Rama Madhav, Marathi

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