Saturday, May 14, 2011

Balgandharva : The Crowning Glory Of Marathi Musicals

 The epitome of feminine grace, Balgandharva

 The Naandi, the beginning with the Ganesh avahan
When Manjiri and Me met up for lunch at the Royal Orchid we gossiped for hours. I gave her company for shopping all the stuff she wanted to take along with her back to Singapore. Then she mentioned she was going to buy tickets for Balgandharva. It sounded really interesting so I tagged along and booked tickets for Dad and me.

I was trying to make it a family outing but my sudden appearance in Mumbai is not making anyone change their weekend plans. There are Kande pohe programs for Bal, Sumeet and Sapna are getting ready for their Himalayan Trek. Pranav has gone back to his home as school results will be announced soon. So Dad making a big fuss about going for a movie finally gave me company. Yeah he does these favors for me once in a while. He prefers to ignore that I do this for him. Uff!
 The entry of Balgandharva!

I expected this movie to be well made in the visuals. Produced by the Art director, Nitin Chandrakant Desai all I was expecting is spectacular sets, as his work is known. This movie is a piece of art which is not flawless but then what is imperfect is also attractive. I won't say that about Subodh Bhave's performance as Balgandharva. His finesse in acting is worth a standing ovation. He slips in and out of the onstage and offstage character of Balgandharva with ease. His personality carries the women characterization with equal savvy as the male character. 
The direction is patchy and adds to the tragedy of the biography of Balgandharva. As a child I have read a no.of articles in Marathi newspapers about him. I was in awe of how a Man could play a women's role with such ease and grace that even men fell for his characters. There were a few patrons who loved the women characters and Balgandhrva knew it. He also knew he was a trendsetter for women and was extravagant with his sarees, jewelry, perfumes etc.

Balgandharva  took the Marathi Musical scene to its pinnacle in the 1900s. His singing mesmerized the audience as much as this opulence on stage through costume and sets. The life story of Balgandharva is as dramatic as his performances. There are many a learning in his life and this movie brings it out very well. An artiste in those days without a formal education was vulnerable. He never took interest in the finances. The extravagance of presenting a play with the best costumes, jewelry and even making the experience romantic by spraying expensive perfumes on the audience as they are welcomed into the theater. The patrons were treated to lavish meals. Balgandharva's passion to please the connoisseur of art as well as the common man equally was the cause of his financial downfall.

The living of separate lives of a bill board king and his family's struggle to make both ends meet is heart wrenching. Finally his escaping into the arms of a younger women, Goharbai who extracts the life's juices out of him by making him perform with a deteriorated throat made me swear aloud. The greedy woman was the final reason for his downfall.

The death of his daughter was personal tragedy and The inaugural show went on the happen... 
That was an entertainer's commitment to his audience!!

The highlight in his life is when he inaugurates the show of Manapaman as Bhamini, he says the loss of his daughter is a personal tragedy but the show must go on. Yet for me the scene where his patrons offer to pay off his debts but he refuses it saying he will not accept alms from his audience was awesome. The mild mannered Balgandhrva coming out as a resolute human is played to perfection by Subodh Bhave.

This is not what you are thinking, It is fulfilling a spouse's wish.

The  scene where his new bride wishes to see him decked up as the glamorous woman followed by the romance dressed in all his stage finery in today's context may create a confusion in the mind. However look at the subtlety of a man who displays anger at such a wish being expressed by his bride but fulfills it nevertheless. It shows how sure he was of himself as a man! A man who cared for his spouse and her wish.

Another scene is where Shahu Maharaj gifts him a shawl and a bag of coins, he accepts it though hesitant and then as he is passing by a dargah he is drawn to the singing and offers the shawl and money there; is the spiritual height of the man called Balgandharva. Tainted by financial scandals, live in relationship at a withering age. His inability to adjust to the new era of cinema and its works. The pure soul whom Lokmanya Tilak conferred the title Balgandharva is what we would like to remember, the one who served the "Rasik mai baap" from a tender age untouched by the greed and unscrupulous people around him.

It was a great pleasure to see the theater full and with a lot of youngsters on a Sunday evening. It was a complete cultural experience. The movie ended with original pictures of  Balgandharva and in my entire life it is the first time I saw the audience standing up and clapping and watching all the credits till THE END!


  1. Thanks for the lovely post Anjali.... Wish I was in Mumbai to watch this... Subodh Bhave is a wonderful actor...

    Surely has built my excitement to watch the movie whenever it is released in US ...


  2. Leena hope you get to watch it soon.

  3. mam, your have aptly given your observation about the film. its true that this film is a cult film with its visual features, its weakness is its stregth.

  4. Bingo! you agree with me then. Yes when a art designer friend read this post he too commented that my pics from the movie hall tho taken on the mobile will tempt people to watch as each frame looks like a painting of Raja Ravi Verma and the low lighting is so artistic. What do you say about the direction?

  5. It's an amaizing movie........I have neverever thought in my wildest dream that, i will ever like Natyasangeet.........but its good treat for muzic lovers...........Balgandharva rocks........

  6. Shweta nice hear an echo of my views! Keep visiting.


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