Disclaimer: I haven’t read the novel by Suhas Shirwalkar – the inspiration behind the film. However, unfair as it might be to be reviewing a screen adaptation of a novel without reading the original work, it doesn’t take away from my experience of the film.
The film opens with grandma Shirin (Sai Tamhankar) with a streak of grey accompanying grandpa Pritam (Sushant Shelar) to Pune, grandchildren in tow. The story traces itself back to presumably the late 70s (nothing establishes the exact era except the bell-bottom pants on the gentlemen and the polka dotted dresses and ‘Asha Parekh’ salwar kameezes on the ladies). Nothing is spelt out, but each character and its relevance in the plot is carefully unveiled through the narrative which revolves around Shreyas Talwalkar (Swapnil Joshi) is thrown into college life in Pune on his mother’s insistence. Under circumstances which are reminiscent of college life in the Hindi cinema of the 80s, Shreyas makes friends with DSP aka Digya (Ankush Chaudhary) and his Katta gang. A do-gooder standing tall for friendships in the face of a creepy Sai (Jitendra Joshi), Shreyas becomes the voice of reason for the rustic gang. While he finds himself attracted to Shirin, Shreyas is forced to ‘patao’ Meenu (Urmila Kanetkar). Will he manage to decide between the two? How will Shreyas find himself while helping his friends? What makes Duniyadari unique is the fact that the director reveals each character’s story sensitively, without going into unnecessary details. He successfully ties most loose ends of the story.
The refreshing storytelling is complemented by some amazing performances. Even though most cast members look a bit too ‘matured’ to be in college, they bring a sense of authenticity to the story with their performance. Swapnil Joshi’s Shreyas grows on you with his goofiness mixed with profoundness. You find yourself rooting for the guy, through his little triumphs and love tribulations. In the third film this year that I’ve seen of hers (Pune 52, Anumati, discounting Zapatlela 2 for obvious reasons) , Sai Tamhankar has proven to be one of the most diverse contemporary actresses. And in this film, she leaves her mark as a delicately convoluted Shirin. Jitendra Joshi’s performance is slightly underwhelming as the evil Sai. And the terrible wig doesn’t help either. With director Sanjay Jadhav’s thoughtful storytelling, Chinmay Mandlekar’s well-crafted dialogue, promising performances and soul-soothing music, Duniyadari has a lot working for it. What doesn’t work is the melodrama in the second half, certain loose ends that are left open to interpretation and a jarring background score.
This one’s worth a watch.