Free Press Journal

Ventilator: Much more than a last gasp effort


Cast: Ashutosh Gowariker, Jitendra Joshi, Satish Aalekar, Sukanya Mone

Director: Rajesh Mapuskar

Priyanka Chopra’s maiden production and Rajesh (Ferari Ki Sawari) Mapuskar’s maiden directorial step – into regional Marathi cinema brings forth a people centred dramedy about a great Indian (read Maharashtrian) extended family converging at a point of near tragedy in a Mumbai Hospital where their beloved Gaja bhau, attached to a ventilator in order to mimic his brain functions, is struggling for survival.

It’s an odd title for a Marathi film but an apt one nevertheless given that the bitter-sweet drama is a play on the attitudes and mindsets of the relatives gathered around the comatose invalid’s sick-bed.

Odds are that he may not survive the ordeal foisted on him by his politically minded, estranged son Prasanna (Jitendra Joshi) while the unmanageable herd hovering around the helpless grieving wife Manda (Sulabha Arya), married middle-aged daughter Sarka (Sukanya Kulkarni Mone) and favourite (read famous filmmaker) nephew R K (Ashutosh Gowariker) keep flitting in and out of the frame prompted by their individualized materialistic agendas. Appearances are deceptive of course.

If one lady is wearing sleeveless to the hospital (having rushed away from her own wedding

anniversary celebration), another has her young, handsome eligible son in tow while not-so-subtly marketing her network marketing products through a show of concern and caring.

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One niece wants to get a personal toilet built while another cousin wants an account of the mangoes taken from his orchard while yet another set want his thumb impression on a document ceding rights to hereditary property. A character artiste cousin has his portfolio on the ready and a political upstart has visions of overthrowing his cousin in the hierarchy of the party they share affiliations with.

The family’s annual gathering to discuss property issues and other disputes was at hand and this sudden calamity basically brings matters to a head. There are extraneous considerations to be taken care of too. It’s Ganpati time and considered inauspicious to have a death in the family while the rituals are on. The NRI daughter with an American husband is given the noblest task of giving the free fall some perspective.

 ‘An Indian family sticks together despite differences’ she mouths. It’s a platitude of course and we are not quite convinced. With nearly 160 actors on board and multiple nuances to play around with, Rajesh Mapuskar ably steers his ship out of emotional troubles onto a more steady shore and then the sermonizing and the melodrama take reign.

What started off as a farcical dramedy about human relationships and individualistic foibles ends up as rather sticky, over-ripe melodrama that fails to maintain its opening enchantment. While some of the performances like that of Ashutosh Gowariker (whose role is autobiographical in nature) and a few others are realistic, the rest veer into theatrics to get the job done.

Things hot up with speed and the comedic elements lend enough lightness to allow for some repressed mirth. It’s a crowd out there on screen and it’s not easy regulating their presence while adhering to the logical flow of realistic drama.

Mapuskar who is also credited with story & screenplay maintains a supple pace for the first 60 mins before getting bogged down by the all too neatly tied-up climax. The resultant is not a completely satisfying or fulfilling experience – merely a fairly entertaining one!