Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Elizabeth Ekadashi

What’s with the recent crop of Marathi movies and their fascination with children? I don’t know where the trend started, perhaps with Shwaas (2004), the story of a blind kid and his grandfather, which was a certified box office hit, and India’s entry to the Oscars that year. Of course, there was the eternal favourite Shyamsi Aai (1953), based on the book by the great Sane Guruji.

Yet, in the recent times, we have seen a load of Marathi movies, with commercial expectations, that puts a child/or children in the centre of the narrative, and frankly, they are all fascinating. Off the cuff, I remember Tingya (2008), Shaala (2011) Khel Mandala (2012), Balak Palak (2012), and most recently, Fundry (2014).

None of these are children’s movies per say, if such a concept exists. They are films more targeted at the adults than children and position the child protagonist within a complex social cultural reality. In Tingya, it is about the rural community and the child’s love for the bull, in Shaala, a school romance during the times of emergency, in Khel Mandala, though a little muddled, the fate of migrant workers in Mumbai, in Balak Palak, to put it straightforwardly, the need for sex education, and in much-acclaimed Fundry, the evils of untouchability which still exists in the villages and small towns.

Now, comes another film with children at the centre, but with a larger theme surrounding it. The film is Paresh Mokashi’s follow-up of another Oscar entry from India, Harichandrachi Factory (2009), Elizabeth Ekadashi.

I found the title fascinating. The film is set in the temple-town of Pandharpur, where ekadashis (eleventh day of the lunar month according to the Hindu calendar), are auspicious and a large number of devotees of Vithalla (or Vithoba) come to take a dip at the holy river Chandrabhaga. But why Elizabeth? For that you will have to watch the film, which also involves a shiny bicycle, by the way.

My friends from Pune report that the film is doing well in the theatres and it is actually a fun film to watch.

The film has also been selected to IFFI 2014, and now, somewhat predictably, right wing groups have taken umbrage to the title. According to news reports, according to right wing groups, the title Elizabeth Ekadashi is misleading, and, predictably, it hurts the religious sentiments of the Hindus. The less we say on this subject is better.

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