First up, I want to congratulate Mrinal Kilkarni on giving girls such power. There are such few women directors in Marathi cinema, and Mrinal, in her second film has taken on the Herculean task of making a period film.
Rama Madhav is a royal love story set against the backdrop of politics, war and the dawn of a new era.
A 12-year-old Rama (Shruti Karlekar) enters the Shaniwarwada as Madhavrao’s wife and discovers a whole new world. The film explores the history of Peshwas, as a young Rama blossoms into a beautiful woman, and develops a unique relationship with her husband.
The film is rich as it can be. With interesting characters whose stories we’ve touched upon through our history books, breathtaking sets, talented actors – Rama Madhav presents a canvas that tests Mrinal Kulkarni’s skill as a director. But what makes it special is the fact that Ravindra Mankani & Mrinal Kulkarni who essayed Madhavrao & Ramabai in the 1980s TV saga Swami, portray Nanasaheb & Gopikabai in this film.
Now, let’s consider why this film is a worth a watch?
- Performances, especially from both the actresses portraying Ramabai (Shruti Karlekar & Parna Pethe).
- Music: The songs are quite enjoyable. Hamama Re Pora is reminiscent of my own childhood (I remember noted singer write Madhuri Purandare singing it in a show we were taken to as kids)
- Gorgeous sets: Nitin Desai’s set design is bound to be rich, beautiful and interesting to look at.
- Quirky storytelling: Mrinal does a great job portraying the life of Peshwa women from a 12 year old girl’s perspective. There are some giggles of wonderment.
Now, what makes this film, a little bit of a dampener?
- Long, long long: The film’ first half has you hooked, but the second half goes on and on and on.
- Snags: Too much to get into but there are snags that one can’t ignore. Like when Raghoba Dada holds Madhavrao captive, the film jumps to Madhavrao strategizing with the court. The deal between Madhavrao and Raghoba just doesn’t get established. The sync seems off in certain songs.
- Too many characters: The film’s title sets you up to expect the film to center around Ramabai & Madhavrao, but there are too many characters and instances that she tries to explore and the central theme of the film gets diluted.
Rama Madhav is a commendable effort, but it has big shoes to fill and I am not sure it does justice to a topic often explored in Marathi arts. If anything, this film was successful in evoking nostalgia and had me pining for a glimpse at the TV series that was an entertaining history lesson to much of my generation – Swami.
This film gets 2 and a half samosas.