Winner of five national film awards, “Jogwa-The awakening” has to be by far one of the best contemporary Marathi movies, in terms of theme, structure, music and acting. At once enlightening and disturbing, Jogwa addresses the issues of latent hypocrisy in Indian society and the human price it demands.
Theme: The movie, directed by Rajiv Patil, produced by Sanjay Krishnaji Patil and based on three novels by Dr Rajan Gavas, is set in a small Karnataka village, steeped in the religious traditions of the goddess ‘Yellama.’ Historically speaking, ‘Yellama’ is another name for ‘Renuka’ – consort of the great sage Jamadagni and mother of Parshuram (an avatar of Vishnu). She is widely revered in Maharashtra and southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. There are many temples devoted to her worship and following in a tradition originating aeons ago, there are still many devadasis forced into devoted service to these temples. It is a life of frustration, bondage and sadness and that is in essence what this movie is about. It is also sprinkled with a controversial notion of what defines moral, religious and spiritual boundaries within societies, the hypocrisies which take root in blind, illogical faith and the evil that is inevitably born of it.
Story: Central to the story are two characters – rebellious young man Tayappa is played by Upendra Limaye, while Mukta Barve plays a strong-willed girl called Suli. Both Tayappa and Suli are forced by their families into becoming a Jogta and Jogtin (male and female devotees respectively) to the goddess. Although both initially accept their fates (Tayappa grudgingly and Suli in silent resignation), their inherent free natures soon begin to revolt against the custom and they become increasingly aware of their frustrating lives and need for freedom. In the process, an unwitting, unexpected and seemingly incredulous romance blossoms between the two and this very romance becomes central to the underlying themes of misuse of power, individual rights, religious fanaticism and the real meaning of spirituality.
Limaye has already made his mark as an actor, not only in the Marathi movie genre, but across stage, screen and television spanning Hindi cinema, television serials as well as various south Indian movies. Having worked with notable stage and film directors such as Madhur Bhandarkar, Anant Mahadevan, Vinay Apte, Ram Gopal Verma and Amol Palekar, he has imbibed, experienced and learnt from the very best in the industry and the cumulative effects show in his portrayal of the angry, brooding, sari-clad, bindi-wearing eunuch Tayappa. Barve on the other hand, is a newer entrant into the industry, but has fast-emerged as a promising actress. Although she debuted with the Marathi film Chakwa in 2004, it was Jogwa that put her on the map of the Indian movie world. She apparently spent a lot of time preparing for this role, by studying actual jogtins in rural India and understanding the day-to-day lives of Indian villagers. Her efforts culminate into a delightfully chilling personification of the result of humanity lost in darkness. Priya Berde, Vinay Apte and Kishor Kadam in supporting roles give the movie that extra touch of reality and grimness, so often warranted by a dark creation of this sort.
Music: The music score is average, except for two songs which stand out from the rest. “Jeev Rangala” – a melancholy tune emboldened with poignant words is a combination of pathos and lucid hope which lingers on long after the movie is over. Regionalism does not seem to deter singers in today’s music/film industry. Hariharan and Shreya Ghoshal (both non-Maharashtrians) picked up the Best Male and Female Playback Singer awards at the National Film Festival in 2008, for this very song. The other song worth mentioning is “Lallati Bhandaar” – a traditional Gondhal song. Picturized in rich colours, the song mainly narrates the history of Yellama in a vibrant and endearingly rustic manner.
Overall, Jogwa is a visceral story about the contradictions within society as well as the turbulent turmoils of human nature. It is about the struggle of one man and woman to break the chains of discrimination, sexual slavery and forced servitude, in a bid to find the happiness that has evaded them for so long. The movie sends a message and if you appreciate the candour of a dark movie detailing a grim reality of life, then Jogwa is definitely worth a watch.