The reality behind the popularity of the literature of Sant Tukaram, the 17th Century saint and poet from Maharashtra was his thought provoking literature. It has been translated into 10 European languages, which itself speaks about his selfless service. In the year 1936, a Biopic made by Prabhat Film Company on this well known Saint, had invited attention from all over the world and the film was the first Indian film to receive award at 5th Venice International Film Festival. The film still remains popular and is subject of frequent studies.
Today, when people have turned to materialistic living, producer Sanjay Chaberia has dared to produce a Biopic on the famous saint, under the direction of Chandrakant Kulkarni and on the script of Ajit Dalvi and Prashant Dalvi. This film focuses on his life before sainthood, trying to cover his childhood with his family and later assisting his father in his traditional money lending business. Very cleverly, the director has tried to show the maturity of young Tukaram in understanding the poverty in his village, during drought and still managing to maintain a balance between his business minded father and the defaulters,using his diplomacy.
The film also goes on to show, how during that period of 17th century, the elders forced their children for second marriage, if the first wife failed to conceive. So, we find a firebrand young woman- Avali walking into the life of Tukaram in presence of his first wife Rakhma, who willingly agrees for the same, to make her mother-in law happy. Initially, Tukaram is not fully devoted to Lord Vitthal; as much as his brother Savji . In fact, as a child, he poses question to his father, as to why he has to travel on a pilgrimage in the form of ‘Vaari’ every year, to seek blessings of Lord Vitthal, when there is already a temple of the same Lord in their village.
A little before interval, the film shows the transformation of Tukaram into Saint Tukaram, when he leaves his house in search of peace and happiness for all those who suffer the drought conditions. The Saint’s poems and his Kirtans( devotional songs) gather support from devotees from different places, including Bramhmins. This disturbs some of the selfish Bramhins, who demand respect to their profession and feel that no other person from a lower caste has the right to offer kirtans. So, Tukaram is tried in the court of so called religious leaders; and asked to destroy his collections and prevented from writing any more lyrics. The caste discrimination occurring those days, is clearly shown through some of the scenes. But, the popularity of the Saint gathers support from the places around and the Saint is forced to break his 13 day fast.
Director Chandrakant Kulkarni has covered most of the important events in the life of the Saint Poet, starting with his childhood days, his young days, while assisting in his father’s business, post marriage tragic events faced by the family and later his turning towards devotion to God and selfless service to the society. The incidences of his advice to Bahinabai a Varkari female, who later turned a saint from Maharashtra, his encouragement to brave young man from village- Laxman, to join the force of Shivaji Maharaj and also his interaction with the Great Maratha Warrior, have been well captured. The wonderful photography by Rajan Kothari makes the film more appealing, with the proper selection of ideal locations and costumes.
Jitendra Joshi who portrays the popular saint, simply steals the show with his remarkable performance. His body language, dialogue delivery and changing expressions according to the situations, test his tremendous capacity as an actor. Sharad Ponkshe as Bolhoba Ambile More (Tukaram's father) and Pratiksha Lonkar as Kanakai (Tukaram's mother), impress with their astonishing performances. Veena Jamkar playing his first wife Rakhma and Smita Tambe playing his sister-in-law, have displayed their talents through those few emotion filled scenes, they have to their credits. Yatin Karyekar as Mambaji Gosavi, the orthodox Bramhin, succeeds in creating an impact through his negative role. Radhika Apte in the role of Aaavli, the saint’s second wife sounds very loud; but that must be going with the requirement of the script. She too has done a good job in the company of artistes like Vikas Patil, Madhav Abhyankar, Ravindra Mankani and others. Padmanabh Gaikwad as young Tukaram has also done a good job. This biopic, is a real tribute to the great saint of Maharashtra.
‘Tukaram’ is a timely release, when we find our own country’s administration surrounded by corrupt practices and the people of today getting used to such practices. Presenting the thoughts of the Saint into a cinematic format and reminding the message behind his meaningful lyrics, with suitable music compositions, this realistic film has turned out to be a real work of art.