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Peachy but Preachy

DNPUN55770 | 1/6/2013 | Author : Omkar Rege | WC :590

After receiving a tremendous response for his previous films, Natarang and Bal Gandharva, Ravi Jadhav brings Balak Palak to the big screen, a film which tells a story that someone needed to tell. Having recreated the life of a legend in Bal Gandharva and having boldly narrated the struggle of a folk artiste in Natarang, the prodigal son of Marathi cinema digs deep into yet another matter of contemporary parenting concern – how to deal with curious teenagers?
The story revolves around the pubescent curiosities of four teenagers, who stand at the doors of a new experience, which requires one to leave innocence behind. In a crisp and focused narrative, the film covers a lot of aspects involving the matters of sex education, curiosity and the dynamics of a parent-child relationship.
Set in sub-urban Mumbai of the 1980s, the film throws light on the typical, cultured, middle-class mindset and quite rationally unveils the transactional relationship paradigm that exists within the family. However, this delicate issue is treated in a very light vein. And nowhere does the humour interfere in the deep and observant presentation of the subject at hand.
We have seen a lot of Marathi films set in an archetypal sub-urban chawl but few get it right. Balak Palak paints a great picture of the culture and the period through its distinctly designed characters.
The four teens Bhagya, Avya, Dolly and Chiu, played by Madan Deodhar, Rohit Phalke, Shashwati Pimplikar, Bhagyashree Shankpal, along with their friend Vishu (Prathamesh Parab) are characters that are perfectly designed to take the narrative ahead.
Apart from that, the minor characters like the nosey neighbour Pednekar Kaku (Vishakha Subhedar), the colony elder Kadam Kaka (Kishore Kadam) and the adult video store owner (Satish Taare), all add a little something in creating the setting too. The characters each have a different sense of humour and sensibility which blends very well with the plot.
What the film would have done without, is what many Marathi films get wrong. They start off by trying to tell a story, which they do very well until the end where it becomes necessary for them to give out a message. It shows a lack of confidence the maker has in his audience, which probably would understand the underlying message. There is no need for the characters to have a dialogue among themselves, like Sesame Street puppets, in order to convey a moral. A subtle hint or an open end without the final words being spoken would take the film to a whole new level.
Having said that, a part of what can only be described as the Marathi New Wave; Balak Palak is one of the remarkable films of the day not only in terms of the content, but also its execution.
For decades, Marathi cinema has been known for quality content that lacks the proper treatment, but that paradigm shift is a welcome change. Balak Palak is a tightly knit story, based on a fairly unexplored subject that is treated with consistency, not only in terms of its narrative, but also its imagery, cinematography and editing.
If you are a proud Marathi manoos, or just a cinema-holic, this is a good film to watch. If you are a parent at that stage of your life wherein you need to have “the talk” with your child, take them with you and watch it. Have a good laugh, learn a little something, and come out with a great experience. This is good ol’ cinema.
—Review by Omkar Rege

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