Last Sunday on the advice of my mother-in-law, I pushed myself out of bed to catch a 10AM show of "Gajar - Journey of the Soul" at Plaza. My home to office route being from Mahim > Shivaji Park > Dadar > Bharatmata > Lalbaug > Byculla, I never miss the posters of the latest Marathi cinemas. The perceived production quality from these is nowhere compared to what we would associate with regional cinema (on Doordarshan) but one that matches up to mainstream Hindi cinema.
The film starts with a struggling director (Parth) expressing his frustration and anger about how the entire Hindi film industry revolves around the stars and getting dates with them. His girlfriend (Geetali) however constantly supports him in doing work which might not be necessarily mainstream but more creatively challenging and satisfying.
As the story pans out, the Parth meets Eric, a foreign university student who is researching the 18 day long procession to Pandharpur in worship of Lord Vittal. They soon agree to work together documenting this "Journey of the Soul" and head out to follow the devotees in the procession.
The film captures Parth's character well - delving deep into the thinking and mannerisms of the nascent creative soul who as a angry young man sets out to make something which is path breaking. The entire film revolves around Parth - his plan and preparation for the film, his interaction with the rest of the crew while shooting and his own transformation in this entire process. Working on the theme of 18 days and 18 chapters of Saint Dnyaneshwari, Parth finally comes a full circle in life and the subject of the film develops a personal and emotional bond with him.
Apart from the story, the Gajar is really well shot and edited. It's very difficult shoot in a moving mass of 25 lakh people when you have limited time to shoot and are also dependent on natural lighting. Keeping with such restrictions, Gajar addresses important issues from time to time related to agriculture, poverty, health and sanitation are addressed in this socially conscious film. The film is clearly directed with a lot of passion and you have to be deeply connected to the subject in order to deliver a product like this.
The only downside is the time of release. Gajar releases at the same time as that of "Tareyanchi Bhet", "Balgandharva" and a more commercial "Mast Chalalay Aamcha". This timing along with a limited audience who appreciate films like Gajar might not make such ventures very common in the future. A friend recently browsing through the movie titles in a multiplex termed films like "Dum Maro Dum" and "Source Code" good and films like Gajar as "noting great."
Somewhere we need to publicise such films more so that a top quality film reaches out to a wider audience who know about it in the first place. But talking about publicity, directors of films like these care less about publicity and more on what they just love doing - making quality films!