15 August cast: Rahul Pethe, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Adinath Kothare, Vaibhav Mangale, Aaryan Menghji
15 August director: Swapnaneel Jayakar
15 August rating: 2.5 stars
Independence is interpreted differently by everyone. For some, it could mean breaking the shackles of poverty and living a luxurious life abroad, for others it could just mean getting out of a literal shackle. Marathi film 15 August on Netflix examines the various forms of freedom and showcases them through a bunch of colourful characters in a Maharashtrian chawl.
The story here isn’t out of the box and neither are the characters, but the film’s strength lies in its simplicity. It makes you smile from time to time and feels like an easy watch.
15 August is set in a chawl (residential colony) and as the title suggests, the events of the film unfold over the morning of the Indian Independence Day. The film’s two principal tracks run parallelly. On one hand, there’s the story a struggling artist (Raju) whose beloved (Jui) is meeting a prospective groom for an arranged marriage. On the other side, we see the residents of the chawl get together to free a boy (Ninad) whose hand is stuck in a hole.
The film’s central love story of Raju and Jui is the cliche class battle. He wants to pursue his art, which leaves him penniless and her parents want a better match for their daughter. Even though the makers try to introduce conflict in the form of a near-perfect boy, you know how it is going to end.
As far as Ninad’s story is concerned, everyone in the chawl is an expert, much like in real life. From the colony’s drunkards to the man who thinks he comes up with the smartest ideas, everyone has a solution for Ninad’s troubles. How they solve this in the end, is quite a disappointment though. Through the course of the film, we meet varied characters. There’s one who calls India a developmental mess, another one still believes that partition was a bad idea and then there is one who wants to participate in a satyagraha just because she has never been in one.
This isn’t one of those films where the climax begins with a big speech about the love for our country, rather it has a character who forgets his speech. In fact, this is the kind of film where the director (Swapnaneel Jayakar) and writer (Yogesh Vinayak Joshi) touch upon everyday issues, like the false promises made by politicians, the swaying mob mentality, the need to prove love for one’s nation, without emphasising too much over them. It’s not as subtle as one would like but in the day where jingoism has become the definition of nationalism in cinema, this feels like a breath of fresh air.
Produced by Madhuri Dixit, 15 August is streaming on Netflix.