Subodh Bhave's Katyar Kaljat Ghusali, a film based on the play from the sixties, came quite close to becoming the best musical I saw in 2015. And given that Whiplash- which released earlier in January that year- was what it was pitted against for the title of best musical in my list, I must clarify that Katyar..., despite its flaws, coming a close second was no mean feat.
Yes, the film has many flaws.
As is the case with many other good commercial films that aim at striking a balance between the film-maker's urge to produce pure art and his burden of wanting to keep the film accessible to a larger audience that has, to his ill-fortune, over the years gotten used to being spoon fed with ham acting disguised as dramatic flair.
The plot stretches itself too thin at some places and the tight editing from the first half comes undone post the interval, thus resulting into a good thirty minutes of additional scenes making it onto the screen, that should have been left out of the final cut.
The acting from all three male leads is good albeit not without those few bits and pieces strewn across the film's length, that come off as overt.
And... that is all.
I am- I shouldn't be but I still am- quite surprised at how incapable I find myself now of jotting down any further negatives about this wonderful film.
And so, I take a turn- well not as dramatically as Sachin Pilgaonkar's Khan Saab does upon being disturbed when he is at his egotistical worst, but still- towards the brighter side, or rather, the melodious one.
It is but obvious that the element of a 'Musical' that defines its purpose of existence and that will primarily determine its standing among many others, is the music.
Katyar Kaljat Ghusali has fantastic songs. They are vibrant, they are vivid and the vocals so powerfully evocative that I had found myself moist-eyed and clapping with the rest of the audience (A full-house!) after every good song ended, more often than not, cribbing at the short length of these musical pieces. The Qawwali from the second half is nothing short of dazzling.
Shankar Mahadevan has done a commendable job as the lead singer and music composer. While most of the songs are from the original play, it is to Mahadevan's credit that he succeeds in replicating the genius of legendary singers from the past while also making the songs his own.
Apart from the lyrics, what also packed a hefty punch for me, were the dialogues (both Urdu and Marathi), the visual effects (particularly the catchy opening sequence) and the effective usage of montages to convey emotional turmoil.
All in all, Bhave's directorial debut lacks much but makes up for most by keeping the focus where it should be- on the art to which it is an ode. The rest are mere ancillary elements... enablers.
The film made me ponder hard as to what my stand on religion and God would have been had music been the only product of believing in them.
Alas, if only.
Catch the trailer here: