Director: Pratima Joshi

Cast: Mukta Barve, Priya Bapat, Kiran Karmarkar, Bhushan Pradhan

Aamhi Doghi is a huge victory for Marathi cinema for two reasons. First, it marks the stunning directorial debut of Pratima Joshi, who has masterfully adapted Gauri Deshpande’s short story Paus Ala Motha to a modern day setting. (The original was written and set in the seventies) Secondly, it disregards the norms behind creating a likable or relatable protagonist, giving us a self-centered, barely empathetic and rebellious lead in Savitri; played by Priya Bapat (arguably her best performance till date).

The film traces Savitri’s dysfunctional relationship with different sets of people in her life over a decade. The first half shows her battle with a father who gets remarried without consulting her. The second half with her boyfriend and their clashing viewpoints of marriage and relationships. In both these halves, we see Savitri finding a companion in her step-mother Ammi (Mukta Barve), a polar opposite of herself. She slowly lowers her guard and grows to love someone she thought she was sure to hate.

The film disregards the norms behind creating a likable or relatable protagonist, giving us a self-centered, barely empathetic and rebellious lead in Savitri; played by Priya Bapat (arguably her best performance till date).  

In Albert Camus’ The Stranger what really incriminates his title character Meursault is his inability to show remorse at his mother’s’ death. Savitri is established similarly. On her way back from school she boldly declares that she doesn’t miss her deceased mother. Savitri’s inability to be empathetic is a recurring theme in the film. When she’s told about her father’s death, she shows rage at being informed late, as opposed to being affected by the actual demise.

Joshi smartly uses the Yin and Yang nature of both Savitri and Ammi’s personalities throughout the film. Savitri is quick to get enraged, strongly opinionated and always rebellious. Ammi is soft spoken, her words always carefully chosen and emotions always in check. Ammi is illiterate, something Savitri reminds her of while bragging about her ‘English Medium school’ education. It’s nice to see a film that shows the presence of step-parents as a positive force in a child’s life. Savitri finds the affection she’s missed in her step-mother.

While Mukta Barve’s screen time may be negligible as compared to Bapat’s, her performance is incredibly powerful. It’s easy to confuse her silence with weakness, but she is strong-willed and sensitive to the emotional state of the family.

In Aamhi Doghi, Marathi audiences have been gifted a story about friendship that should stand the test of time. It’s a story that cuts out the cliches that have stagnated family dramas for long.

Mihir Jog’s cinematography plays a crucial part establishing their relationship. Mukta Barve is constantly shot in the background of the frame, in stark contrast to Priya Bapat. Jog uses warmer colours to emphasise her maturity. He shoots her in profiles, masking what she’s really thinking, as opposed to Bapat, who’s ever ready to voice her opinion. This is his second release this month after Sachin Kundalkar’s Gulaabjaam.

Joshi’s choice to cast Bapat as a school girl is questionable. She doesn’t look sixteen. The visual changes in both the characters over two decades is negligible, which is problematic for the film’s non-linear narrative.

In Aamhi Doghi, Marathi audiences have been gifted a story about friendship that should stand the test of time. It’s a story that cuts out the cliches that have stagnated family dramas for long. I hope it paves the way for more stories that are dominated by female characters and voices.

Rating:   star

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