An abusive father, a doting mother, a silently supportive grandfather and a bunch of encouraging rowdy friends…there we have the recipe for a successful sports drama. This time it is a young man from a village in Maharashtra who wants to be a wrestler. His father (Umesh Gagtap) gets abusive at the mention of the sport while his grandfather (Vikram Gokhale, in an eminently welcome cameo), a failed wrestler, encourages his grandson to get into the akhada with nothing on except the background music and the lal langoti.
The visual landscape is eye-catching and yet authentic. Long shots of buffaloes and lorry vans winding their way through hilly roads are beautifully appended to what looks like a half-hearted formula film celebrating every trope of the sports genre without exploring the theme or the drama in anything except a superficial sometimes stirring swish across the canvas.
Not that Kesari is not engaging. Some portions, especially one meal in the hovel where grandfather Vikram Gohkale leaves his food after watching his beloved grandson being abused once again, stands out. But the film is largely too filmy and flimsy to hold head steady as a work of any substance. The dramatic juice leaks out of the loopholes in the plot. And we are never fully invested in Balya (Balram)’s struggle to rule the ring while a political bigwig (Mohan Joshi, seen after ages) tries to push his unworthy son as a state champ by buying off the competition.
“You take care of the body. I’ll take care of the rest,” Joshi commands his son’s trainer who looks confused as to what he is supposed to do.
It all seems to be conveniently manufactured. And I found the emotional conflicts to be way too self-conscious. What holds the film together to a point is Balya’s pupil-mentor relationship with a wrestler-turned-car mechanic Ismail Pehelwan. Mahesh Manjrekar brings to the part a crusty crispness a pleasant jadedness verging on a well-earned worldly wisdom. Here is a man who has seen better days but has not allowed failure to make him bitter.
Very obviously ripped off from the Pat Morita-Ralph Macchio alliance in The Karate Kid Manjrekar and newcomer Virat Dilip Madke’s bonding holds our attention on the training ground. But after a point their sportive skirmishes begin to get repetitive. In the central role, the young new actor is earnest and convincing though his rawness comes in the way in emotional scenes.
It is evident that the director Sujay Dahake means well. But he introduces absurd crowd-pleasing gimmicks. A romantic angle with a girl dressed in immaculately stitched ghagras and blouses crops up from nowhere replete with coy glances at the river bank and romantic ballads about trembling lips and eager hips, giving Manjrekar the opportunity to say the film’s most memorable line to his protégé. “Nothing is more embarrassing than the langot coming undone in the wrestling ring."
This film manages to keep its langot on. But barely.
Image source: IMDb
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