Starring: Deepak Dobriyal, Nandita Dhuri
Directed: by Raj Gupta
Rating: *** ½ (3 a half stars)
There is much that can be said about Deepak Dobriyal’s skills as an actor. But the best compliment is this. Those astonishing skills never show on screen. Dobriyal immerses in his characters so effectively it is like the merger of the actor’s soul into the character’s body.
In this moving though fractured and finally compromised tale of genealogical and instinctive parenthood Dobriyal plays Madhav, a mute-and-deaf man so close to Nature we almost feel him embracing every tree and every blade of glass that the camera captures with such rare care in rural Maharashtra.
The unassuming tale does just fine for itself while constructing a blissful universe for Madhav, his deaf-and-mute wife Anandi(Nandita Dhuri) and their only son Shankar(Aryan Meghji).
Some of the best Marathi films in recent times have been set and shot in rural Maharashtra. Sadly, though Baba makes telling use of the scents and feelings of the countryside it denies itself the joy of being a great film like Sairat, Natrang and Court by a wide margin. The problems in the narrative have largely to do with the unwanted extraneous doses of melodrama that visit what was essentially simple heartfelt tale of a small happy family where words have no relevance until the world outside impinges on the idyllic bliss with its own ideas of ‘civil’ living.
The melodrama, in the form of a woman claiming to be Shankar’s real mother, creeps into the plot to take over what was essentially a simple blissful existence of nuclear family. The chaotic invasive presence not only mars the three protagonists’ life but also, in the wider context, creates a disturbance in the tranquil universe of the narrative.
While the melodrama is an integral part of the film it is also salient tool of disempowering what was potentially a remarkably serene and thoughtful study of familial kinship in a silent Chaplinesque universe. Dobriyal, with sturdy support from Nandita Dhuri and Aryan Meghji keeps us so engaged in the family’s untainted universe that we mourn the extraneous presence in their lives, and not in the way that the narrative wants us to.
Baba is a heart-warming, though flawed drama that keeps us engaged because Dobriyal is that kind of a rare actor whose sincerity sublimates every sign of subterfuge in the storytelling.