Vivek Bele is one of the best contemporary playwrights in Marathi. However, most of his plays are constructed out of amusing observations, and clever discussions rather than fast paced narratives. It all works very well for stage, but when his script is adapted to screen, it risks contradicting a typical audience expectation despite how intelligently it’s been crafted for stage. In case of Aapla Manus, adapted from Bele’s critically acclaimed play, Katkon Trikon, that doesn’t happen. The mystery behind this well conceived thriller keeps things moving nicely.
The film poses a riddle based on Rashomon effect, as it proceeds to weave theories and construct alternate versions of a single incident. The incident is a supposed accident of one Aba Gokhale, a senior citizen living with his son Rahul (Raghavan) and daughter in law Bhakti(Harshe). Maruti Nagargoje (Patekar), an officer of the law, arrives on the scene to investigate what actually happened. The film is structured around the individual statements of the characters, and the possible solutions proposed by the investigator.
Aapla Manus neither wastes any time on preliminaries, nor provides unnecessary diversions like songs. It sticks to the bare bones of the plot, and lets it develop logically. It begins at the time of the accident and unfolds like a crime thriller. The additional information in form of the backstory, is provided to us with a twist. It forms part of the statements given by the individuals with hidden agendas, and the reliability of these facts can be questioned.
When the film has certain amount of repetitions, the challenge for the director is to keep things interesting for the audience. Satish Rajwade is up to this challenge, and keeps the audience involved. The responsibility is shared by the script, which keeps us guessing throughout. Dialogues have always been the USP of Bele’s works, and the same can be witnessed here. One of the problems I have seen in whodunits is the obsession with the solution, which makes them too mechanical to care about. This script overcomes the problem with a strong emotional punch near the end which delivers a message, one which resonates with the audience.
One of the key issues with the film is the casting. While Sumit Raghavan and Iravati Harshe playing Rahul and Bhakti deliver solid performances, Nana Patekar’s twin role, is central to the success of the film. As the trailer has revealed, he plays the investigator Nagargoje, but he also plays another role of lesser length but equal weightage. One can question the need for these two roles to be played by the same actor, as there is no real connection between them, but the film provides enough logic to establish a thematic connection. Having said that, I will also add, that Nana Patekar is decidedly better in the role of Nagargoje than the other one, which edges towards being a caricature.
Except for an ill-advised and unnecessary cameo at the very climax of the film, which moves our attention away from Gokhale family, and some logic flaws with the proposed solution to the mystery, the film remains a good entertainer, which allows for intellectual stimulation, a rare combination for cinema in any language, let alone Marathi.
Review by Ganesh Matkari