Film: Ani…Dr.Kashinath Ghanekar
Cast: Subodh Bhave, Nandita Dhuri, Sumeet Raghavan, Sonali Kulkarni, Vaidehi Parshurami, Prasad Oak, Mohan Joshi, Anand Ingle, Suhas Palshikar
Director: Abhijeet Deshpande
Rating: * * *
This attempted biopic is a rather broad look into the life and times of popular actor Dr Kashinath Ghanekar (Subodh Bhave), regarded as the first superstar in the history of Marathi theatre. A dental surgeon by profession and already married to Gynaecologist Dr Irawati (Nandita Dhuri) when the stage bug bites, his life gets topsy-turvy as his ambitions flounder and attempts to gain entry into the regular circuit get stonewalled. With unqualified support from his wife, Ghanekar literally abandons a flourishing dental practice and immerses himself in his passion – eventually managing to scale unprecedented heights of superstardom both on stage and screen. But of course, there’s a heavy price to pay for a debauched lifestyle strung together in hedonistic pursuits -which eventually becomes the cause for the destruction of his marriage and life.
Even so, Dr Kashinath Ghanekar, a.k.a Lalya as he was popularly referred to (in reference to the character he played in the hit play ‘Tears and the Bloom’), left behind an indelible mark on the theatre and cinema circuit in a tragically short-lived career which ended at age 56. Director Abhijeet Deshpande’s narrative faithfully recreates the struggle and the pain, insecurity and complexes of the late-blooming hero, as he fashions himself into a brash notorious popular icon serenaded with bouquets and death threats as he outshone the biggest names in the theatre world of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. His life-long friendship with Prabhakar Panshikar(Prasad Oak), his epoch-making role as Sambhaji and later on as the unforgettable Lalya, his spats with playwright Vasant Kanetkar (Anand Ingle), his numerous infidelities and trysts with alcoholism, long-term resolute relationship with respected actress Sulochana’s (Sonali Kulkarni) teenage daughter Kanchan, his brief forays into cinema with Bhalji Pendarkar’s (Anand Joshi) support, his underhand efforts to gain precedence over Dr. Shreeram Lagoo(Sumeet Raghavan) – his fiercest competitor in those days, his ban by the Marathi theatre Association for unruly conduct, the eventual break-up of his first marriage, eventual marriage to Kanchan (Vaidehi Parshurami) and birth of daughter Rema are faithfully chronicled in flamboyant, colourful strokes.
It’s a larger than life portrayal, generous on the cinematic liberties taken and yet stays true to the human being within. Ghanekar’s shortcomings are juxtaposed against the popular acceptance of his talent, thus allowing for a measured appreciation of the actor, and not the man himself. Subodh Bhave’s consummate talents and those of his superbly primed co-stars, along with definitive helming from Abhijeet Deshpande, should be credited for making this experience a vibrant drama that has the power to touch a chord in the audience hearts. The sets and production design may seem a trifle artificial, but the life portrayed is very much real.