Natsamrat – the movie

It has always been a dream to write about something few hours after I have experienced it, before the night passes away. Sleep has this beautiful ability to mellow your feelings, thoughts and even experiences, and here I am sitting well past midnight and typing this before I sleep over the movie Natsamrat. Spoilers ahead.

I went for this unprepared, solely based on K’s review that it’s an extremely brilliant award winning movie, me being a sucker for all things offbeat. I then read up about the fact that the movie is actually based on a highly acclaimed and successful play by the same name, on the life of a theatre legend.
Since I have watched the movie first, this piece is only for the movie.

Nana Patekar is one actor I have admired a lot through the years, and he being the protagonist is three-fourth the battle won. He paints a vivid character faultlessly – Natsamrat or Ganpat ‘Appa’ Belwalkar, an excellent and eccentric play legend who is so full of himself and always believes the world is at his feet. He chooses the day of retirement, and proceeds to move away from the lure of the stage. Yet he doesn’t leave the stage behind; in his wife’s words – he gets the stage home. What she means is he has got all his theatrics home. ‘Nautanki’, his friend Rambhau calls him. The friend is a beautiful character etched by Vikram Gokhale. A theatre actor himself, he drinks like a fish and freely criticizes Natsamrat as a half-baked actor. The banter between the friends is enjoyable – funny and heart wrenching in the same shot. Conversation between the two flows freely, much like the alcohol they talk over. Considering the era in which the movie is set, the wives of both these artistes are subdued, traditional yet have a voice in their head. The scenes between Natsamrat and his wife ‘Sarkar’, as he lovingly calls her are beautifully delivered and shot. She is his anchor, the bullock that pulls the wayward carriage that he is, the placid sea behind the tumultuous wave of the artist. She has taken care of the hearth and home for years, so that Belwalkar can focus on becoming and being Natsamrat. Yet she hates it when her husband apologizes. To her he is an idol. She accepts him with all his flaws, Natsamrat the philanderer, Natsamrat the spendthrift, Natsamrat the raunchy conversation embarraser. Though this may seem far fetched, too patronizing and idealistic, it’s probably a fair representation of the times they lived in.

The story is primarily about how Natsamrat wills all that he owns to his son and daughter, and how he ends up uncared for. The scenes of conflict between the couple and their children remind us of Tamil Visu movies ‘Samsaaram Oru Minsaaram’ or a Baghban. Only thing being the scenes leading to the conflicts are more brutal and extremist. They may appear jarring in modern times. The sympathy and tears of the family at the end of the movie seem artificial. Vidya’s (Natsamrat’s daughter) husband Barve is an interesting character but he is depicted in too much white without any shade of grey. Whereas all the other characters are shown with traces of grey. Rambhau when he admits he fears his wifes death because of a selfish motive – that he doesn’t want to be alone. Makarand (Natsamrat’s son) who has pre-planned that his dad could probably move out of his ancestral home and stay in the village home. Neha (Makarand’s wife) who wants her privacy and to set her home as she wants it. The home that Natsamrat bequeathed to them. Vidya’s character is layered, she wants to support her parents come what may, but there is probably some trace of a guilt in her heart, which makes her behave in a vociferous and overly righteous manner, not giving her parents any benefit of doubt. She sheds silent tears after her outbursts. In some ways she is similar to her father in constitution – impulsive and temperamental.

Well then – the movie might make you sad a bit, K couldn’t sit through the movie so he left the movie midway. The plot may be age old, the scenes may be naïve. But Natsamrat’s dialogues are powerful, and relevant for any theatre artiste today.

Moments of truth –
when Dikshit’s son (Dikshit – Barve’s boss) wants to hear true feedback from Natsamrat’s mouth on his Shakespearean adapted play
Vithoba – Vidya’s chubby cook and househelp who keeps watch over the main door at night, sees the couple escape and yet lets them go to protect their self-respect
The Natsamrat edited spiteful ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ rhyme sung by Belwalkar’s grand daughter and her friends in school
Rambhau slapping Belwalkar when he has forgotten him for few months after Rambhau’s wife Kumud passes away. Rambhau is endearing even in pain. In his scathing words to Natsamrat after the slap – ‘Even a disease keeps you company, and walks with you’.