Excursions by Amit Gawande

Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli - Celebration of a life

I recently watched Bhai: Vyakti Ki Valli, a movie I was very eagerly waiting for quite some time now. It is a biopic of a person that I adore, an iconic Marathi writer and a humorist, a brilliant theater artist and an adept musician, a person who inspired me to start writing. That person is Purushottam Laxman Deshpande, lovingly called Pu. La.” or Bhai” in the region I am from.

Narrating the life of this towering personality is not a small feat given the sheer number of stream of art he was passionate about. He is a well-known and a well-respected person amongst Maharashtrians of all age. It is through his writing, through the careful study of human nature around him that he taught many what the real happiness is. So it is only just that I was so curious to learn more about this master, through especially the first of this two-part biopic that focuses on his early life.

It was wonderful to know more about this simple person and was refreshing to see the Maharashtra of early 1900. In a way, I thought the people, the society that Bhai dwelt in was a lot more liberal, more open than what we see today. It was pleasing to watch the strong women with definite opinions, the simple marriage or even the relationship that Bhai’s wife and his mother share. The finale with a mind-blowing rendition of Hindustani classical music through a couple of well-known songs was sheer magic on screen - left me with goose bumps down my arms. It is Marathi culture on display. It instantly transported me back to my childhood days when these songs were our morning alarms. Boy, how much do I yearn for the simple life of yesteryears?

No doubt then that it was a brilliant watch for me, and my family. Even my friends share my experience. But all of us already know a lot about the person and the people around him. The list of characters, from the real-life like Bhimsen Joshi or Kumar Gandarva and from Bhai’s imagination like Anna or Namu Parit, that walk the screen are well itched in us Marathi people’s memories. But that may not be the case for people not from this state.

I wish this movie was an equally well-made biography, not just a celebration of the life of this beloved man. I wish the characters were allowed to grow, introduced at the very least. I wish we learned more about the relationship Bhai shared with these characters. I wish this could have been that one movie I would recommend every friend of mine to watch so that they knew what gem of a person Pu. La. was. But, alas.

First thing I did once I was back from the theater was to listen to couple of Pu. La.’s story-telling acts. It was heart-warming for me to see many aged couples who could barely walk taking all the effort to come down to the theater with their family and laughing their hearts out. May be they had spent their golden years together watching Bhai live and now they want to re-live those days. So yes, the movie did leave many, including me, nostalgic. May be that was the win the makers were going for.

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