Film: Lathe Joshi
Cast: Chittaranjan Giri, Ashwini Giri, Seva Chouhan
Director: Mangesh Joshi
Rating: * * * ½
Mangesh Joshi’s debut feature as director is a soul-searching exercise about the futility of singular pursuit. Lathe Joshi (Chittaranjan Giri) is forcibly excised from his life-long occupation because progressive technology has made inroads into what was once the skilled worker’s realm. Getting laid-off for no fault of his own is definitely something he cannot talk to his family about.
His aged mother continues to spend her concluding years on earth listening to mechanical chants and addicted to TV soaps. His wife (Ashwini Giri), a less rigid personality, runs a one-woman catering service and is kept busy throughout the day. His son, Dinu, who successfully runs an electronics repair shop from the home premises, is also doing well for himself. So they don’t see anything wrong in Joshi staying home and helping out with the odd chores now that he has become redundant. Joshi though seems to be at a loss- the one thing that anchored him to life was his skill as a lathe machine operator. Now even that has been taken away from him. He struggles to come to terms with that fact and ‘uneasy’ lies ahead…
Joshi appears to be floundering in a world where technology has taken over even the most mundane tasks. The food processor replaces the atta-chakki, the battery operated electronic chant machine replaces the old outdated mechanical one, his mother’s wish to get the darshan of a deity is fulfilled through internet pooja and his son buys a Nano to help deliver the prepared food to clients.
Throughout all these changes Joshi walks around in a stupor, left with little voice and no identity. Joshi may be the instrument by which the director voices his disgruntlement towards rampant automation. But there’s more to this film than mere removal of agency. The 50 something Joshi’s intractable, singular pursuit is contrasted with the adaptable industry exhibited by his wife. And there’s a valuable lesson to be learned in that. It’s Mrs Joshi’s pragmatism, flexibility, and adaptability in her chosen endeavour that makes her feel excited about life and living.
Mangesh Joshi’s film is flaccidly paced but has a starkly laden atmosphere with the authentic environment to lend it real world gravitas. The performances are securely primed. The cinematography is grounded in craft and the editing allows for heavy meaningful silences to make up for the scarcity of dialogue. This is a meaningful film that tries to highlight rootedness as a definitive existential need. It may not be profound in scope, but it’s certainly worthy!