Cast: Kalyani Mulay, Chhaya Kadam, Madan Deodhar, Om Bhutkar, Naseeruddin Shah
Director: Ravi Jadhav
Ravi Jadhav’s film Nude (Chitra), is one of the most important films this year, and not only for the boldness of its subject, or the controversy it sparked at the time of IFFI, Goa, and at the International Film Festival of Kerala, prestigious festivals where Nude was selected to be screened and was unable to participate due to the adamant and non-cooperative approach of I & B ministry and CBFC. Ironically, this censorship and lack of understanding about art and culture in our society forms a large part of what the film is trying to say. Thus by rejecting the film, the ministry has proved the message right.
Ravi Jadhav is easily the most successful filmmaker in Marathi industry since his debut with Natrang (2009). Since then, he has handled a variety of subjects, from a period biopic to a young romance. If there was a unifying element in his earlier work, it was the commercial approach. Serious content or comedy, all his films were designed to please the mass audience. With Nude, he is experimenting for the first time with a theme suitable for art house cinema. With another eminent filmmaker, Sachin Kundalkar co-writing the screenplay, he has produced a work very relevant to this time and place.
There are two layers to Nude. At one level, it’s a story of Yamuna (Mulay), who comes to Mumbai from a small town on the Maharashtra — Karnataka border, with her son Lahanya (Deodhar), after a fallout with her husband. She stays with Chandrakka (Kadam) and after failing to find a job elsewhere, she starts working as a nude model at JJ School of Arts, a place where Chandrakka is already employed in the same capacity. It deals with the shame she faces initially, and the courage and confidence she finds eventually. It talks about her triumphs and disappointments, her hopes and regrets.
At another level, the film is about the place of art in our society. It recognises our failing in recognising the true beauty and art, and observes as we gradually turn into a society of hypocrites. The subtext becomes more evident in the post-intermission section. Leading to the climax, the film turns into a ruthless social critique. We have seen some incredibly brilliant endings recently, Court, Fandry and Sairat amongst them, and the ending of Nude is certainly as brilliant, if not more.
From the storytelling point of view, I liked the pre-intermission section better where the flow is smoother, without individual dramatic moments. The second half has a point to make, and that turns it into a series of episodes, than a fluent narrative. Individually, these work well, specially the one with Malik Saab (Shah) — a stand in for M F Hussain and other wronged masters. I personally found the college protest sequence a bit lame, being too brief and lacking the impact it should have.
With the subject being what it is, two of the most difficult tasks are allotted to Kalyani Mulay who plays the lead role of Yamuna, and the Director of Photography Amalendu Chaudhary. Previously seen in a small but important role in Ringan, this is Kalyani’s star turn. This is a difficult and demanding role, which is sure to win her many accolades. Shooting of the modelling sequences tastefully, without making the actors or the audience uncomfortable, and driving home the point using just visuals, is a spectacular achievement. Amalendu with his director Ravi, deserve full credit for the work. The film has a strong cast of solid actors, with a special mention to Chhaya Kadam in the role of Chandrakka.
With Nude, Ravi Jadhav has raised the bar for his own work as well as for Marathi cinema in general. The audience needs to support this film if we are to see more groundbreaking work in future.