Valu -- The Wild Bull

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International Film Festival of India

PANAJI, India -- Quite unlike the usual Marathi cinema with its raunchy dance numbers and double-meaning dialogues, Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni's "Valu -- The Wild Bull," is a sedate look at a remote village in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Subtle, almost British humor, colorful conversations, political scheming, the romance of elopement and strange superstitions pepper the movie, beautifully shot in the rocky, rugged terrain of the region by Sudhir Palsane.

Realistic and racy with sparkling energy and an unlikely plot of a bull gone astray, the movie is bound to get a decent festival exposure. Its boxoffice earnings in Maharashtra have been attractive as well.

Abba (Nandu Madhav) is an ambitious politician out to prove his mettle against the village chieftain (Mohan Agashe). Their tussle leads them to a marauding bull. The chieftain scores a point when he gets hold of the district forest officer, Swanand Gaddamwar (Atul Kulkarni), to trap the animal. When he comes with his younger documentary movie-maker brother, the village is thrilled at all this fuss and attention.

Gaddamwar, who reads Jim Corbett and fancies himself to be a present-day version of the hunter, is peeved that he has been ordered to capture not tigers and leopards (a couple can be seen in the cages he maintains at home) but a mere bull. But when he adopts the same style of stalking a ferocious animal to get at the bull, it turns out to be a hilarious romp.

The officer with the tranquilizer dart in hand and a retinue of curious country bumpkins in tow presents the most amusing sight. Then when the bull turns out to be more benign than belligerent, the comic excitement is heightened. Obviously, the bull is only an excuse for the politicians to outsmart each other, and Gaddamwar and the villagers are mere pawns in this game of one-upmanship.

A great performance by Kulkarni in a role completely different from the serious characters he has been portraying till now spices up the narrative. Agashe and his sidemen add a little zing to what turns out to be a delightfully light-hearted adventure where villainy is sweetened with wit.

Production Companies: Mukta Arts/Malpix Films
Cast: Atul Kulkarni, Mohan Agashe, Girish Kulkarni, Veena Jamkar, Nandu Madhav, Mangesh Satpute and Amruta Subhash.
Director: Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni.
Screenwriters: Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni, Girish Pandurang Kulkarni.
Executive Producer: Nitin Vaidya.
Producers: Ganpat Kothari, Prashant Pethe, Girish Pandurang Kulkarni and Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni.
Director of photography: Sudhir Palsane.
Production designer: Ranjeet Desai.
Music: Mangesh Dhakde.
Costume designer: Kalyani Kulkarni.
Editor: Neeraj Voralia.
No rating: 120 minutes.

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