Review: Marathi Film Ajoba

It’s 2.5 years since we saw Sujay Dahake’s debut film Shaala. And now, this week releases his second feature Ajoba.

Ajoba has had its share of footage in the media. Will it release, won’t it release etc. With Urmila Matondkar making a comeback on the silver screen after 6 long years and first time in a Marathi film, Ajoba had a lot pinned on it.

But Ajoba is not about Sujay, Urmila or any of the stars. Ajoba is about a deeper message, a deeper understanding of the effect of urbanization on wildlife. One of the most awaited films in Marathi cinema, Ajoba has a very relevant message. Especially in light of what happened in Chandrapur just a few weeks ago, Ajoba makes a rather important point. Ajobala tyacha ghar milala asel ka?

Purva Rao (Urmila Matondkar) is a wildlife activist in search of leopards.  When she helps the forest department capture a leopard in rural Maharashtra, her journey with Ajoba begins. As Ajoba treks across the hills and forests of Maharashtra, Purva hopes to learn something about wildlife behavior.

Sujay tells this simple yet tough story in an interesting format. He layers his story well, with visual montages of the characters while their dialogues play out in the background, or the comic relief or an animated track for Ajoba. Sujay attempts to tell the story in a very distinct voice and succeeds to an extent.

Urmila Matondkar is seen in a very different avatar here. Known for absolutely stunning roles, this one’s another jewel in her crown. She protrays Purva with a mild aggressive and rebellious streak. But all of these are an undercurrent to Purva’s actions. Hrishikesh Joshi is an amusement with his wisecracks as Dnyanoba. Two brilliant performances in a year! (He played the adorable Mama in Yellow, remember?)

Ajoba does have its flaws. The film starts with a bit of confusion. You know there’s a dog being chased but there’s a scene with Purva walking the fields with a mashaal. And the same scene unfolds a bit later. Was this a flashback, was it not? I didn’t really understand. Though there are references to the team’s emotional connection with Ajoba, it hardly comes through as a scathing emotion. The bit with Yashpal Sharma, who stands on the other side of the wildlife-human conflict, comes, stays and disappears. One wishes there was something concrete that happened with his track in the film.

The film’s narrative seems to be a brief extract of the thought it looks to put forward. The film wraps up in a jiffy. Which was a bit of a shame after a stellar first half.

That said, Ajoba is a very refreshing story, that asks important questions. Sujay’s debut Shaala was a multistarrer with the most popular Marathi artists featuring in them. His second film is a stark contrast to the period drama that was his debut. With bare minimum characters, and a wild animal playing the protagonist, Ajoba is a bold film for a filmmaker to attempt and Sujay deserves props for that! And if you love wild cats, this film is your Disneyland!

Ajoba, despite its flaws is a must watch. It’s a socially relevant film with a roar. And Marathi cinema has never seen something like this before.

Ps: The subtitles are a little off. But don’t worry, you’ll follow the story with or without.

Rtaing: ***1/2

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