Bottom Line: 16th century Indian king inspires modern Mumbai businessman in timely but flat saga.
OAKLAND, Calif.–A contemporary fable about pride in one’s heritage has raised spirits in India but seems unlikely to raise much interest in the overseas boxoffice outside a small community of expats from the western state of Maharashtra.
The Marathi-language “Mi Shivaji Raje Bhosale Boltoy” (“This Is Shivaji Raje Bhosale Speaking)” opened April 3 in India has been a major hit in western India, even among non-Maharashtrians. But some of the credit for its success must go to the lack of competition by Bollywood films, since a dispute over revenue sharing between producers and multiplex owners has led to a monthlong standstill on new Bollywood releases.
The story is borrowed from any number of current headlines that rue the influx of “outsiders” who pour by the millions into Mumbai, the state’s capital, ready to snatch away local jobs, housing and choice opportunities.
Dinkar Bhosale (Sachin Khedekar) is a balding, bespectacled bank clerk who, like many Maharashtrians in Mumbai today, feels he gets no respect. Even his actress daughter wants a catchier, North Indian name like Twinkle Chopra. “Bhosale is too down-market,” she pouts.
In a moment of crisis, he cries, “I’m ashamed to be born a Marathi!” and presto, he’s visited by the spirit of the great Maratha king Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (“Slumdog Millionaire’s” Mahesh Manjrekar), who lectures him on his native greatness and persuades him to celebrate the honor of his ancestry.
This is a message that could have universal appeal, but the timeliness and relevance of the film is watered down by its unreasonable length, melodramatic acting and a bright and stagy look better suited to TV.
The idea of a historical Indian great setting us lowly modern folk straight has already been done, far better, in producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 2006 comedy “Lage Raho Munnai Bhai.” In that film, it was a ghost of Gandhi doing the lecturing. Gandhi himself presumably would approved of the message of “Shivaji Raje,” but even he might have run out of patience during its 2 1/2-hour running time.
Opened: Friday, May 1 (Eros International)
Cast: Sachin Khedekar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Makarand Anaspure, Suchitra Bandekar, Abhijeet Kelkar, Priya Bapat, Siddharth Jadhav
Director: Santosh Manjrekar
Screenwriters: Mahesh Manjrekar, Abhijeet Deshpande
Producers: Sanjay Chhabria, Ashwami Manjrekar
Director of photography: Shailesh Awasthi
Visual effects Yunus Bukhari
Production designers: Prashant Rane, Abhishek Vijaykar
Songs: Ajit, Samir, Atul
Editor: Sarvesh Parab
No rating, 148 minutes