The city of Pandharpur was most recently shown in Lai Bhaari, which released in July this year. But what I could recall from that torturous film about this holy city is only the mauli mauli song. Now, Pandharpur is once again at the centrestage and the annual vaari is again the occasion, but this time in a completely new way and in a new avatar.
Filmmaker Paresh Mokashi has set up a beautiful story in the backdrop of the famous vaari in Pandharpur for his Marathi film Elizabeth Ekadashi.
Gyana and Mukta have lost their father at the early age and their mother does odd jobs to earn bread and butter for the family. The siblings have treasured a bicycle called Elizabeth, which their father had made out of his creativity. One day bank officials seize their weaving machine due to non-repayment of loan and ask them to deposit Rs 5000 to get the machine back. The mother manages to arrange half of the amount from all her contacts and finally decides to sell Elizabeth for the remaining amount. But Gyana and Mukta don’t want Elizabeth to go.
Elizabeth Ekadashi is a very simple and beautiful story told in an equally simpler way. It has a very intelligent and concise script by Madhugandha Kulkarni and Paresh Mokashi. The writers have taken best care of characters and their world. And therefore we see kids as what they are; they talk in their immature language and don’t give philosophical statements. And while on one hand we see the caring mother, who doesn’t believe in god and don’t even hesitate to call it a stone; on the other we also have followers of Saint Isaac Newton.
The city of Pandharpur too plays an important role in the film. Those, who have never been there, know it as a holy city and have their own assumptions about it. But Elizabeth Ekadashi shows us that Pandharpur is like any other city. The film takes us from the city’s narrow lanes, where we see its people, their normal lives, the daily rituals, busy markets, and also the red light area, which gets good business during the vaari event.
The artist in Amol Gole has brilliantly painted the original beauty of this small town on a huge canvas. His excellent camerawork takes us through the busy roads, congested staircases, multi-purpose terraces, the historical temples and of course across the local people. Some of the long shots have been taken by hidden cameras with the real people around there having no idea that they are being captured. It has helped making the overall experience very authentic.
Elizabeth Ekadashi is packed with solid performances from all the actors. Shrirang Mahajan as Gyana is very innocent and communicative. In one scene, he gets up in the morning to find nobody in the house and then rushes to ensure that the bicycle is in place. He has done it very brilliantly. Such no-dialogue scenes highlight the acting talent in him. Sayali Bhandarkavtekar as Mukta alias Zendu is very cute and cheerful. And Pushkar Lonarkar as Gyana’s best friend Ganya is a scene-stealer. A confident boy with great sense for timing and delivery, he also has a good screen presence. The kids are all very perfectly-cast in the film. Similarly, Nandita Dhuri as the mother and Vanmala Kinikar as grandmom are flawless.
Late Anand Modak’s soulful music has made the film more dynamic; and while watching it, we can easily gauge the loss the Marathi film industry has suffered after it lost the legendary composer.
Chaitrali Dongre’s costumes have made all the characters look realistic and believable.
To be very frank, Elizabeth Ekadashi is not as great as Harishchandrachi Factory, but it is undoubtedly a beautiful, intelligent and flawless film. You may struggle to figure out even a single Marathi film of recent times that could stand in line with these two remarkable films.
When I watched Lai Bhaari, I had assumed Pandharpur is a city that produces superheroes. But after watching Elizabeth Ekadashi, I learnt that it is a city of humans only, and that the real heroism is in humanity. Thank you Mr Paresh Mokashi.