“Sardaar tame hukam to karo, hoon ene maari naakhis,” used to threaten a skinny henchman with skinnier cane in his hands – is the faintest memory of Gujarati films I can recollect as a citizen of Gujarat. Hence, while driving towards multiplex to watch a Gujarati film meant battling the Shakespearean dilemma, ‘to watch or not to watch.’
The moment we parked the car and paid for the parking ticket, the security guy curiously asked, ‘Gujarati film jovaa aavya chho ne?” (Have you come to watch Gujarati film), we nodded in acquiesce. The gleam of his eyes was perhaps the glimmer of hope that ‘Kevi rite jaish’ directed by Abhishek Jain offers to Gujarati cinema.
Right from ‘Narsinh Mehta’ (1932), ‘Akhand Saubhagyavati (starring Asha Parekh), Sonbai Ni Chundadi (first cinemascope Gujarati film released in 1976), Bhavni Bhavai (The Ketan Mehta directed film that won National Award in 1980), to ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’, Gujarati films have come a long way.
Compared to Hindi films, which churns out over 10,000 films, just 762 Gujarati films were made in the last 75 years. In similitude of BC (Before Christ) and AD (After Christ), the film, Kevi Rite Jaish (KRJ) surely divides Gujarati Cinema into two different eras, with one being ‘Before KRJ’ and the other as ‘After KRJ’ – a dichotomy worth celebrating.
KRJ clearly takes the mantle further by winning the biggest award any film worth its salt could ever earn – audience’s applause. The theatre was abuzz with applause, laughter, sobs (thanks to over-sensitive ‘baa’ in the audience), and high fives, especially during a scene where the lead character and his elder brother choose to watch a ‘Chinese’ porn film over a ‘Russian’ one simply because ‘Chinese’ films are direct ‘to-the-point’ – just like the film Kevi Rite Jaish.
An out-and-out satire on the Patels being obsessed with the idea of migrating to the USA, Kevi Rite Jaish is based on a true story, sorry on true stories (as the closing credits would like to put it). The film delves into the corrupt means to reach USA, irrespective of what the youngsters would do once they reach there.
The story’s lead character, Harish Bachubhai Patel is played to perfection by debutant Divyang Thakkar, who has a ‘passion’ for going to America. Harish falls for an NRI girl, Aayushi Patel played by the petite actor, Veronica Kalpana Gautam. The Patel family’s journey replete with conflicts to make Harish migrate to the USA is what the film about, but more than that it’s about self-confidence and family values.
Veteran actors like Kenneth Desai (Bachubhai Patel – Harish’s father), Rakesh Bedi (Daulatram Chainani – a Sindh Visa agent), Anang Desai (Ishwarbhai Patel – Bachubhai Patel’s childhood friend), and Tom Alter (Emigration officer and ‘Uncle Sam’) lend the film a smooth sail, right from the first frame to the last shot. The credit also goes to cinematography by Pushkar Singh and editing by Manan Mehta, which beautifully captures the essence of the city, both as walled city and urban hotspot through the 32 locations it has been shot at.
Mehul Surti and Vishvesh Parmar do a commendable job as music directors, especially for the first-ever Gujarati rock, ‘Pankhida’ sung by Suraj Jagan. The songs have been penned by eminent poet Raeesh Maniyar and Jainesh, which depict the characters’ joy, pain, love, and dilemma to perfection
While leaving the parking lot, I returned the parking ticket with a smile to the same security guy. I am sure he must have noticed the same glimmer of hope in my eyes for Gujarati cinema, which shall someday scale heights where Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Malayalam films have soared. Well, the underlying question still remains: Kevi rite jaish?