“Will he be reckoned as a one-time wonder?” “His next project will decide whether he is here to stay.” “Overnight success doesn’t last long!” Since the stupendous success of Scam 1992, there has been a slew of such speculations for actor Pratik Gandhi, who seems to be well on his way to superstardom, deservedly so.
At this juncture, here comes an OTT platform that followed its ‘Ishq’ of Regional content and took the ‘Risk’ of a dedicated Gujarati OTT platform called Oho Gujarati. And guess what – this is the same production house, Cineman Productions helmed by Abhishek Jain, that revolutionised Gujarati cinema with its films like Kevi Rite Jaish, Wrong Side Raju and Bey Yaar.
“Pratik Gandhi in and as Vitthal Teedi” announce the posters and opening titles, reminiscent of the films of the 70s and 80s. Pratik Gandhi has a remarkable screen presence and owns every scene in Vitthal Teedi. The swagger of Harshad Mehta is replaced by the humble confidence of a rural ‘Jugaari’ i.e., gambler, yet the swagger still follows him nonetheless.
If you go by the storyline, credited to the short story ‘Vitthal Teedi’ by Mukesh Sojitra, it’s a story that we have been watching in the 70s and 80s blockbuster movies. Writer Bhargav Purohit adapts the short story into a screenplay replete with scenes that emphasise Vitthal Teedi’s character, who is a largehearted gambler, deft player, affectionate brother, obedient son and painfully shy lover. Here’s where the problem lies in Vitthal Teedi – the screenplay is way too familiar for the audience and it heavily relies on the lead actor’s charisma to pull off the entire first season.
We are told that Vitthal is an ace player and Vitthal, in his voiceover, confesses that he doesn’t care about winning or losing but just loves playing. The writing doesn’t emphasise this aspect of Vitthal’s personality, apart from the nitty-gritty of card games and gambling. This results in a lack of excitement in the gambling scenes. As an audience, one would like to know what kind of techniques Vitthal employs. If he studies the body language of his opponents, how does he use it to his advantage? In any sports drama, we always know that the protagonist is going to emerge triumphant, but the detailing of the sports adds drama to the entire scenario, which is missing in Vitthal Teedi. But as mentioned earlier, the film makes up for all these with power-packed performances by its ensemble of talented actors.
Vishal Thakkar, as the little Vitthal, is surely going places beyond the village lanes of Junagadh. Ragi Jani, as Tribhuvandas Tripathi, perfectly essays the religious yet progressive father of Vitthal. Jani’s eloquent silences make for a perfect contrast with the otherwise dialogue-heavy hero. Prashant Barot makes his character of Dasha Bapu believable. Brinda Trivedi as Vandana Tripathi, who plays Vitthal’s sister makes her presence felt with a mother-like warmth in the way she interacts with her brother, a far cry from the filmy sisters we have gotten used to watching on the silver screen.
Shraddha Dangar of Hellaro does a guest appearance here and one wishes to see more of her as Manisha, Vitthal’s love interest. The other actor who leaves an indelible mark is Prem Gadhvi as Kanu Datti, an ‘Urban Gambler’ from Ahmedabad. Notice the way he shows off his ‘urban swag’ while catching up with Dasha Bapu at his deli (gambling den) and the same ‘urban swag’ later transforms into ‘humble rural boy’ in a drunken stupor. He’s surely an actor to watch out for!
The temple, trees, river and labyrinthine lanes stay with you for a long time after watching Vitthal Teedi, especially after an episode that ends with a traditional Gujarati song being played to the strains of the humble harmonium. Cinematographer Tapan Vyas beautifully captures the scenes, infused almost with the scent of moist soil, while editor Hiren Chitroda adroitly cuts the scenes long enough to evoke many a memory of the times when we used to revel in the simple joys of life.
Kudos to producers Abhishek Jain, Nayan Jain, Amit Desai and Suryadeep Basiya for backing such a project and choosing Vitthal Teedi as a launchpad for Oho Gujarati. Director Abhishek Jain has combined the rustic charm with the urban touch of technical finesse, evident in almost every scene of the web series. It has been quite a while since we have seen something as stylish set against a rural backdrop.
To sum it up, Oho Gujarati couldn’t have wished for anything better than Vitthal Teedi as its launchpad, which is evident by the rave reviews the 6-episode series is already garnering. Vitthal Teedi is indeed a trump card for Oho Gujarati.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.