What is the story about?
When his son drowns in a river at the height of the monsoons, Ramji, an ironsmith and part-time vet in his village, falls into shock and grief. A devout follower of Lord Vitthal and Sant Dnyaneshwar, Ramji has undertaken a pilgrimage every year. But his son's death makes Ramji question the validity of his philosophy, and he tries to push away his daughter-in-law Tulasa and her newborn daughter. Does Ramji find closure?
What does it mean to be God-fearing? Do we worship God out of love, or do we bargain in front of him for life and prosperity? Dithee, the last film of the late acclaimed Marathi director Sumitra Bhave, seems to be posing these uncomfortable questions to us through Ramji's grief at losing his son. Ramji has gone for his annual pilgrimage to pay homage to Lord Vitthal for thirty years, and has managed to internalize the philosophy espoused in the Dnyaneshwari, yet his stoicism fails him when it comes to his son's death.
Adapted from Marathi literary giant D.B. Mokashi's short story Aata Amod Sunasi Aale, Bhave's screenplay takes viewers on what initially seems like an endless journey of grief and bleakness. But it's actually Ramji's journey. Most times, we are conditioned to think of death as the end of life, and grief as a sign of human weakness, but nature survives even after a death. However, the film does not mock religion. Rather, Bhave's film makes the pertinent point that religion can act as a guide for a person's emotional journey, but he has to reconcile with his grief in order to live again. Some of the messaging in the film is very direct, while other views are very subtly put out, but collectively, the film seems to be telling us that it's all right to pause, grieve and take our time in honouring our dead. All of this makes this film a flat-out masterpiece, and a fitting swansong for the late Bhave.
Bhave assembles a dream cast featuring the doyens of Marathi theatre and cinema: Dr. Mohan Agashe, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Uttara Baokar, Girish Kulkarni, Amruta Subhash, Shashank Shende and Anjali Patil. All of them play their roles to perfection. But the actor who towers over everyone else is Kishor Kadam, who delivers a nuanced, haunting performance as the bereaved Ramji.
Music & Other Departments
Dhananjay Kulkarni's cinematography is the star of this film, with his lensing of the torrid monsoons almost acting as a character in the film. Parth Umrani's music and Saket Kanetkar's background score are beautiful. In fact, the sequence in the climax when everyone sings Aata Amod Sunasi Zhale will give you goosebumps.
The sequence where Ramji tries to induce a neighbour's cow to go into labour, while also struggling with his religious philosophy, is brilliant.
The film moves at a very languid pace, which may not be to everyone's liking.
Did I enjoy it?
Absolutely. This is a moving film.
Do I recommend it?
If you can spare the time and love films that bring up profound questions, do not miss this gem.