Onto the next release of the weekend and while I am still hungover in the Pathaan wave, I finished watching the new Marathi film Vaalvi in a theatre near me. You can make out by the frequency of my reviews for a Marathi film, that the Marathi film industry, after an indifferent 2022 has got off to a flyer in 2023. It ended the year brilliantly with Ved and now Vaalvi marks my second review of a Marathi in a single month. Its trailer really did seem interesting with dollops of dark humour sprinkled in a delicious premise that did promise for an absolute joyride. The film has been running to packed houses even in its third weekend which was the weekend of Pathaan. I did wish to get to it sooner but finally I did get my chance this weekend. So then is Vaalvi worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Vaalvi(which stands for termites, a clever reference in the film) follows the story of a husband plotting to kill his wife by making it appear as a suicide. Does he succeed? The story here is deliciously dark and it gave me immense pride that a not so mainstream film industry did potentially transport me in a world which was hilariously funny from start to finish. The dark comedy genre is never an easy genre to crack as you do need to hit the right notes, if you don’t then it all can go spiralling downwards. Also you need a fascinating set of characters to propel the drama ahead, something that the Hindi film Kuttey lacked. So the story here does tick all of these boxes. But it is the screenplay standing at just under 2 hours that made my jaw drop while cracking me up with its clever and sharp humour. To be honest, I did not expect it to be that good but my opinion over the next 2 hours did change and how!
The first thing that I did like about the drama was its setup. It did not waste time in establishing the strained relationship between the protagonist and his wife. Neither was the focus on his affair that he was having with his dentist. And neither his debt or loans did form a part of the buildup. Instead, the drama did pick up from the point of the protagonist and his lover planning a murder of the former’s ‘depressed’ wife. Within the first 15 minutes, there was a foreshadow of the entire plan as being executed through the eyes of the two characters. There was a streak of wicked humour that was engrained in the narrative. This while giving the audience a vibe that things will not go as planned. And it is through this plan, which by the way did seem like a perfect murder through its impeccable detailing, that you as a viewer are told about the main players and the situation that they find themselves in. Thus for me was a clever piece of writing that was sharp and to the point without dragging or drifting away from its source material!
The proceedings are hilarious and thoroughly engrossing. The ability of the writer to catch you off guard despite narrating a major chunk of the story within the first 20 minutes was commendable. You sort of re-live the entire plan as the wicked protagonist begins about executing things which are going perfectly as per the plan. The minutest detailing of the plan is followed to the Tee leading up to the murder. But the twist at the halfway mark changes the entire scenario. This was a thrilling interval block that had me curious on what to expect next. I had my fingers crossed hoping that things do not fall flat as often seen in multiple films(with the recent example being Kuttey). But the second half took me by surprise and how!
The quality of good writing is when you lead an audience into believing a certain fact before completely making a switch. And this is what Vaalvi does here. Whatever thoughts were circling in my mind all came true within the first 10 minutes of the second half before proceeding in a different direction. The events are humourous but care is taken to keep the drama moving at any given point of time. The characters are so well defined that when they are thrown in peculiar situation, the manner in which they respond leads to laughter. The situation is tense but the humour is dark and delicious.
The events leading up to the final act are just ridiculously funny. This was a risky proposition to deal with, considering the body count begins to rise. But the humour quotient also reaches higher decibels with each passing incident. I was really curious on how the writers plan to end the proceedings. And that particular end was just so abrupt and sudden that I didn’t know how to react. Just when things began to register while I did have my hands covering my mouth, I let out a smile followed by hysterical laughter. I don’t remember the last time when an industry has been this brave with its ending, completely backing themselves and the intelligence of the audience as opposed to fleshing things out.
Amidst the humour, it was fascinating to study and nurture this fact that being confident on your ability can lead to path breaking cinema. And I say path-breaking because it came at a point when I least expected it! Overall, the screenplay was a writing masterclass, connecting every event minutely and organically by staying true to its source material and also the sheer ability of opting for that brave end, all of which made for a stunning-ly hilarious and brilliant dark comedy. To give you a perspective, the drama was met with a thunderous applause after it had ended! More power to such writers and makers!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are witty and sharp which make for a hilariously watch. The BGM is playful almost playing hide and seek with the audience with a streak of wicked humour. The cinematography is top notch right throughout, the editing is just so sharp too! Director Paresh Mokashi stamps his authority on the drama and how! His eye for detailing is just brilliant and it makes me think that he may be observant too. His sheer ability to engage the audience by sprinkling the drama with some dark humour was terrific to witness. In other words, the direction is brilliant here.
The performances are spectacular here. Namrata Yogesh Sambherao has her moments to shine. Anita Date as Avani is spot on with her comic timing in what was an incredible act. Subodh Bhave as Anshuman was first rate and he was able to tickle my funny bone more often than not. Shivani Surve as Devika is outstanding and does a phenomenal job. The switch in her character is seamless and she deserves accolades for the same. Swapnil Joshi as Aniket is absolutely brilliant in a goofy kind of a role that will make you chuckle and laugh throughout. The best part was that he was effortless and that did reflect in his body language leading to a better impact as far as his character was concerned.
Vaalvi is a deliciously dark drama with outstanding performances making it the best Marathi film in years. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Highly Recommended!