Truth,they say,is often far stranger than fiction. And Bal Gandharva exemplifies this phrase. Born Narayan Shripad Rajhans in 1888,he single-handedly revived Marathi theatre and is attributed for the creation of Sangeet-Natak,or as some critics have called it,the Indian Opera. His life was full of twists and turns,and filmmaker Nitin Chandrakant Desai is attempting to portray this great mans journey in a movie.
Bal Gandharva was not only an actor,but also a singer,dancer,and a performer. Even after a hundred years,his music is still appreciated. In his time,women were not allowed to act on stage,but the grace with which he portrayed the role of women would eventually pave the way for female actors on stage, says Desai. Sharing an interesting snippet about the great man,he says,Rajhans,as he was known as a young singer,had such an amazing voice that at one performance,Lokmanya Tilak,who was in the audience,christened him Bal Gandharva. And the name stuck.
Subodh Bhave,who will be playing the lead in this Marathi movie,says,This was the man who changed the face of Marathi theatre. I had a deep interest in his life,and after doing some research,I approached Desai with the idea of the film. Desai adds,And I finalised the project within 12 minutes!
In an attempt to do justice to the film,Desai has roped in three National Award winners director Ravi Jadhav,costume designer Neeta Lulla and screenplay writer Swanand Kirkire. He himself is also a National Awardee. A film about Bal Gandharva should have the best in the business. Jadhav has worked on films with a lot of music,and Lulla has come up with some brilliant costumes. Kaushal Inamdar,the music director,has come up with worthy compositions, says Desai,adding,Bal Gandharva would not do things by half he demanded the very best,and looked at the smallest of details. For him,the audience was divine.
The film will also attempt to replicate what is called the golden era of Marathi theatre,and thus there is a huge onus on cinematographer Mahesh Limaye,who says,I have been able to study about tones and lightings thanks to paintings by Ravi Verma and other artists. The important thing is that visually,it should be beautiful.
Jadhav is also in awe of the great man. He was,in the simplest meaning of the word,a kalakar. His concept of Sangeet-Natak garnered a massive fan-following,not unlike what film stars get today. The grandeur that was Marathi theatre at his time has since sunk to lower levels. Perhaps,through this film,we can encourage the youth to go back to the stage, says the director.
Production for this musical with 14 songs will start on November 9,and it is slated for a mid-2011 release,tracing Bal Gandharvas life as an eight-year-old till the age of 55. However,this movie is not about him alone. There are many characters in the film who too have been masters of their art,and they are still considered some of the greatest artistes of Marathi theatre. Thus,in a way,the film celebrates that era, smiles Jadhav.