Writer-director- editor-dialogue: Sujay Dahake
Music : Saket Kanetkar
Cast: Urmila Matondkar, Hrishikesh Joshi, Yashpal Sharma, Om Bhutkar, Shrikant Yadav, Shashank Shende, Neha Mahajan, Dilip Prabhavalkar
By Sunil Nandgoankar
There was much curiosity about Ajoba as it is a film on the first collared leopard who was fitted with a GPS transmitter by the forest department authorities before he was released into the jungle. The film dwells on the actual events that happened in 2009 in Maharashtra but unfortunately, while writer-director Sujay Dahake has not managed to bring out the thrill and adventure much needed for such a film, he has only emphasised on the scientific study to save leopards in the future.
Purva Rao (Urmila Matondkar), a biologist is on a mission to save leopards in the Maharashtra forest area and she begins with the Junnar forest. The news of leopards going on a rampage and attacking human beings becomes daily news. Hence she decides to find the cause of the attacks and also study the nature and lives of the animals. During her study excursion, one day there is news about a leopard falling inside a well. Purva goes to the spot with the forest department crew. After three days of strenuous efforts, the leopard is successfully saved. Purva comes up with a brilliant idea, that of installing a GPS transmitter inside the leopard. Before releasing the animal into the jungle, she christens him Ajoba (grandfather). Ajoba walks away freely but his activities get recorded and through satellite, Purva follows him and it becomes easy for her to learn more about him. Beginning his journey from Malshej Ghat to Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, Ajoba completes this 120 km journey in 29 days.
Dahake actually wanted to show this incredible journey along with many other interesting things. But the screenplay loses its grip mid-way and it feels like the film-maker could not choose between the documentary format and cinema format. This leads to the film losing out on the thrill that it needed.
The film is based on Vidya Athreya, an ecologist working on interactions between the leopard and humans. She was instrumental in collaring a leopard through the GPS technology in 2009 with the help of government and forest officials before releasing him into the jungle.
Urmila Matondkar, who plays this passionate biologist out on a adventurous mission, has done a good job. Dnyanoba Sawant (Hrishikesh Joshi), forest officer Shinde (Shrikant Yadav), a helper (Om Bhutkar), forest officer in charge Jadhav (Shashank Shende) and all other actors have done a good job. The visual effects are excellent but cinematography by Diego Romero doesn’t really bring out the required visual treat.
People, at large, should and must try their best to help save leopards and other such helpless animals; is the message that the director has tried to convey through the film.