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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Bhirkit, Review: Two deaths, one funeral, one election and three greedy inheritors

Bhirkit, Review: Two deaths, one funeral, one election and three greedy inheritors

Bhirkit (Marathi for ‘greed’, an approximate translation), has its heart in the right place. It deals with a subject with which millions of Indians will identify, both city-dwellers and villagers. The team gets the setting, the casting and the milieu right. The emotions are palpable and real. And yet, the film fails to knit all these elements together into a tight narrative. Inspired by his own memories, story writer-director Anup Jagdale lets his tale become omnidirectional and, in the process, dilutes his powerful message. Too many characters, with a democratic pie-share each, don’t help his cause either. Bhirkit offers nothing new, and yet it could have packaged the product much better, and there were distinct cinematic possibilities that have been frittered away.

In a Maharashtrian village, the local Majordomo Bunty Dada is upset that he will not be able to contest the election in his constituency because it has been declared that the seat is reserved for a female candidate. While the fixer, Tatya, is trying to pick a woman from several hopefuls, Bunty decides to ask his wife to stand for election, in a forced consensus. Bunty has had an affair with a woman called Dhrupa, and she now wants her pound of flesh: the seat! A hope and a half is what she has, for Bunty is not going to get brow-beaten by an ex-flame. Elsewhere, Pakya and his wife are ‘looking after’ Pakya’s bedridden father, Jaaba (the Foreman). Jaaba had been the foreman of a mill in Mumbai and had helped 140 inhabitants of his village get a job in the mill. Jaaba is now immobile and rings the bell whenever he needs something. Sometimes Pakya’s wife responds, sometimes she ignores his call.

One day, Jaaba kicks the bucket. Far from being in mourning, Pakya starts making plans for his future, with his substantial inheritance. He has a brother and a sister, who live separately, and come down for the funeral, and the 13-day mourning that follows the cremation. They too want the property sold and the income divided among the three siblings. Pakya’s mother, Aaji, quite old herself, takes the loss rather badly, but hardly anybody consoles her. Bunty’s wife gives a speech at the funeral that is both hilarious and in bad taste. Things get quite queered-up when it is realised that the fifth day of mourning is also the last date of filing the nomination, which is to be done with fanfare. Will the villagers honour the centuries old custom of observing 13 days of mourning, or will they ride to the election office in regality and file the nomination, bypassing the tradition?

Co-written with Pratap Gangavane, the screenplay by Jagdale is a patchwork of several tracks, some of which do not converge at all. Take the Major, his attractive daughter and her unattractive admirer/lover. The Major is seen running after the man with a double-barrelled gun, which he continues to tote even when there is no sign of him. The rationale behind the girl’s interest in her mismatched lover’s and his advances is never explained, and the entire track has nothing to do with the core of the film, which is about Jaaba’s death, his funeral, his estate and his children’s attitude to the sad event. Also, the van driver and his grossly overloaded van, over-flowing with passengers, are there for comic effect, as is the Major’s track, and serve only to digress from the focal point.

Trying to pack in a few attractions for the masses, director Anup Jagdale incorporates an item tamasha/lavni song-dance, which, though not full of semi-clad maidens, is full of thrusts and gyrations. He hits the same button again, when he has almost every woman in the village, clinging to and hugging Tatya at the drop of a hat. And for the third time, the ‘button’ dwells on a (partly) unbuttoned blouse of a woman, seated at a gathering, that reveals various levels of cleavage, much to the delight of one male voyeur. The two deaths in the film are both predictable, as is the choice of Bunty’s wife to contest the reserved-for-women seat. As far as handling of actors is concerned, Jagdale is to be complimented, but then more than half the task was accomplished in the casting itself.

Girish Kulkarni is a natural as Tatya, in a role that demanded little. Dr. Yakub Sayed, with his white beard and frail profile, fits the Jaaba role like the glove. He has no dialogue, and it is a role that only needed him to look very ill and then dead, both of which he has managed very easily. Usha Naik as the suffering Aaji is key to the story. Her role, however, is not well-developed, and when she becomes the fulcrum of a major twist, it comes as surprise, though the scene could have been well-anticipated. Monalisa Bagal looks a very comely Reshma, the Major’s daughter, while Sagar Karande as Bunty lacks the domineering screen presence that was required. Shrikant Yadav makes a good Pakya, and his over-the-top pretentious wailing goes well with the character. Also in the cast are Rushikesh Joshi, Tanaji Galgunde, Kushal Badrike and Kailas Waghmare.

Shail Pritesh’s music is mostly apt, except when it rises a few decibels suddenly, without good reason. The cinematography and the editing jar when the cuts appear shadowy, with a sort of patch on the left of the screen. Some of the scenes seem to spring out of nowhere. Also, the film drags near the central part, which should have been sharply edited. Lyrics are by Mangesh Kangane.

Bhirkit has its fine moments but is unable to cash-in on them, resorting instead to time-worn tropes.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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