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Shwaas: A Breath
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by Abhishek Bandekar

"Waiting To Exhale"
2 stars

Now, now…don’t get me wrong! I mean no disrespect to the Marathi film industry, and this film in particular, in relation to which I am making a pejorative statement. My heart(also my lungs, I believe) was overwhelmed with pride, joy(and carbohydrates) when I learnt that a Marathi film had been felicitated with the National Award. A long wait of 50 years( the last Marathi film to win the prestigious(?) award was Acharya Atre’s ‘Shyamchi Aai’) had finally born results. ‘Shwaas’ is a low budgeted and modest film made earnestly by a fairly inexperienced group of artistes. Both director Sandeep Sawant and principal actor Arun Nalawade are not big names in the talented pool of Marathi arts, be it theatre or cinema. In fact it has always baffled me as to how the same Marathi medium that keeps producing absolutely fine actors from time-to-time, also manages to make the most senseless films possible. In this dark age of Marathi films, ‘Shwaas’ literally came as a fresh breath of promise to rescue Marathi cinema from its self-inflicted state of nadir.

A warm, fuzzy feeling began in my stomach in anticipation(although I’ve now come to a conclusion that the feeling was caused due to an extra-plate of methi bhajias, the night before) as I left to watch a screening of the movie, at a theatre near me(in filmi parlance!). I waited with bated ‘breath’ as the movie began. About two hours later, and even now, I am still waiting to exhale. And I don’t mean that as a compliment!

This sorry excuse of a movie(it should’ve been a thirty-minute TV film in the first place) beats around the bush unnecessarily and, to the misfortune of the viewer, incessantly before getting to the point in the final reel. Every scene creates a feeling of deja-vu, because almost every action and situation is repeated, albeit in different locations. For eg. Convincing the doctor to talk with the affected child about the implications of the concerned operation is repeated such an alarming number of times, that Yossarian begins to make sense! Arun Nalawade keeps an estranged and bewildered expression throughout the movie. One isn’t sure if he is worried or constipated! Ashwin Chitale as the kid is endearing initially, but begins to get on your nerves as the reels roll on. The only saving grace is the Sandeep Kulkarni(portraying the doctor) who manages to mouth the most funniest(unintentionally) and corniest of lines with such earnestness and sincerity that you actually forget their absurdity and listen to him in rapture. The plot has umpteen loopholes, the biggest of which is the undisclosed reason behind the doting grandfather’s decision to not inform or tell his daughter-in-law’s brother about his plan to take the kid out of the hospital to the town. The actual story of the movie is only worthy of a few minutes, and in the time the movie takes to reach there, Andy Dufresne has already escaped from the Shawshank prison!

But what is perhaps most appalling is the ideology that the films purports. The final reels indirectly imply that a blind life is a wasted one. The doctor’s resolve to carry out the operation when ‘pleasant’ images are yet etched in the child’s memory sounds similar to the last hurrah of a dying man. The movie had ample potential to be a heart-tugging story about the triumph of the human spirit. And it actually seemed to be on the right track for sometime early on. The scenes where the doctor tries to make the young boy understand the importance of other senses with the aid of smell and touch are indeed well-intentioned. But sadly, the final product isn’t!

I am a Maharashtrian later, an avid film buff first. I firmly claim that there have been better Marathi films in recent years than this one. ‘Sarkarnama’ is a fine example. I do concede that as a unique effort, ‘Shwaas’ is commendable. But it doesn’t deserve the accolades that it is receiving. Films of much higher caliber have released this year. ‘Maqbool’, a marvellous adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth has been ignored inexplicably, while this film has been sent to the Oscars as India's official entrant in the foreign language category! Ironically, in a film about a human story of a kid combating his inevitable blindness the camera captures of the beautiful locales of Ratnagiri is what stands out. Sorely disappointed! - Abhishek Bandekar

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originally posted: 04/06/05 15:19:01
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User Comments

10/10/06 matin khan Awesome ! Amazing story telling ! 5 stars
12/09/04 Girish Truly Great Movie 5 stars
12/09/04 Vishal Padwal The brilliant movie.. indeed a strong contestant for Oscars 5 stars
12/07/04 ash Great movie, must watch. india's entry for oscars 5 stars
12/07/04 Shivprasad Mangesh Bhide Awesome ! Amazing story telling ! 5 stars
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