Where Poetry is Story

Writers - Directors

Film Review
Bioscope (Marathi):Poems become Stories

When Poems Become Stories

Bioscope is a welcome experiment in turning poems into films. An ensemble of four short films inspired from four different poems, tied together by Gulzaar Saab's renderings of the poems in Hindi. A wonderful foreword- a nazm by Gulzaar Saab, narrated in his deeply evocative voice- takes us on a journey of poems giving life to stories. And then, one by one, the narratives unfold. The film is mostly bilingual for it owes much of its beauty to the Hindi compositions that keep playing in one’s mind long after the film has ended.

The first film, Dil-e-Nadaan, is, as one would guess, inspired from Mirza Ghalib’s timeless Ghazal. Bai, a forgotten Ghazal Queen of yesteryears, learns that she has received a registered post. Who might have written to her? She, and her colleague, Sarangiya Miyaji, wonder. They’d only know the next day when the post office opens. They spend the night in anticipation of a good news (an invitation to sing, maybe?) and reminiscing the glory of times bygone. The most beautiful scene in the film comes somewhere in the late night, when Bai, half asleep, imagines rain soaking her almonds drying on the terrace and urges Miyaji to do the needful. He rushes to the window- but there’s no rain. It’s pure poetry on screen. Writer-director Ganjedra Ahire succeeds in capturing the essence of the lead characters’ lives, which mirrors the plight of many artists forced into oblivion by the tide of time. It makes one smile (if not laugh) with them, feel their anguish and nostalgia, and somehow deep in our hearts, we know that we are all headed the same way. The only downside of this film is the heavy use of Hindi dialogues and abrupt shifts between Marathi and Hindi. Neither does it sound organic to the characters nor does it serve any other purpose. A more studied infusion of specific Hindi words in otherwise Marathi dialogues, along with a touch of Hindi accent, would have worked far better for the characters as well as the overall experience of the film.

Ek Hota Kau- the second short, is based on a passionately romantic verse by Soumitra. This love story begins with Kawlya (crow), a dark-skinned young man, falling for Pakli- a pretty young maiden. There’s certain universality to his heartache and excitement, which we instantly connect with. We spend some time in getting to know the status quo, we develop empathy for Kawlya, we hate those who make fun of him- and then wonder what’s up with him. That’s when the story begins to dodder. Kawlya seems to have an unusually large complex of his complexion. Why, we do not understand. The artsy scenes that emphasize this fact fail to give us any insight into Kawlya’s psyche. So despite a few lovely touches of light romance and a wonderfully universal premise, the film misses touching our hearts. Writers Viju Mane and Satish Latkar simply fail to do justice to Kawlya’s character and all we are left just with a couplet in Gulzaar Saab's haunting voice- “ Log kahenge sayana sayana / Kawwe ke moonh mein angoor ka dana!”

Bail (बैल) - A powerful poem by Loknath Yashwant is the inspiration for the third short by the same name. Or so they say. The poem, with an unusual choice of narrator, looks at the issue of struggling farmers and farmers’ suicides with a striking new perspective. The film, however, not only forsakes this wisdom but takes the most clichéd approach to the topic.  The original story by Abay Dhakne is just another tale of a struggling farmer without any new point of view, and the screenplay developed in collaboration with Viju Mane, the director of the film, lacks any structure whatsoever. Mangesh Desai’s power packed performance is the only saving grace for this otherwise loosely written film.

The fourth film, based on Vijay Tendulkar’s poignant 'Mitrachi Goshta' is a compelling portrayal of a torn lover in a world that fails to understand her. Sandeep Khare’s poetry flows in rhythm with the emotional upheavals of the characters- Sumitra and Vinya- adding depth to an already intense story. Choice of filming in black and white works beautifully for the story set in pre-independence India. Writer-Director Ravi Jadhav’s screenplay and dialogues weave a tapestry of smiles and tears, as Sumitra defies all our ideas of what women were like in those times. Vinya’s efforts to understand her, even as he struggles with his own emotions are brave and endearing. Veena Jamkar’s performance as Sumitra is simply magnificent. I loved everything about this film, except its ending. It just did not have the same gravitas as the rest of the film, and hence compromised the effect of the entire film.

Overall, it was a delightful experience to watch a melange of subtle, poetic stories woven together with verses and a voice that is synonymous with poetry. It reminded me of one of my favorite screenplay writing teachers, Mick Casale’s, advice to screenwriters: Read poetry when you write screenplays. For that’s what you are aiming for - a poem.

Films like this are rare, especially in an industry driven by melodramatic templates dictated by box office. The fact that such a film can be made strengthens one's faith in the possibilities that regional cinema, especially Marathi cinema- still holds. And that makes Bioscope a Must Watch.


   Ketki Pandit

Ketki Pandit is a writer/director with MFA from NYUs Tisch School of the Arts. Also an alumnus of FTIIs Screenplay Writing course, she is passionate about cinema and stories that shape our world..

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