Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush

  • Release Date: 02/01/2015
  • Cast: Subodh Bhave, Chinmay Mandlekar, Priya Bapat, Sameer Vidwans
  • Director: Om Raut
  • Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars) 

Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush is one of those unique experiences where you completely forget that the film is laced with poor Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) and has performances that are a tad bit more theatric than they should have been. Most importantly, you fail to notice the fact that the film follows the same storytelling tropes that many previous Hindi films have followed successfully. The best example that comes to my mind is that of Rang De Basanti (Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2006). What remains with you are the inspiring words of Lokmanya and his unbelievable achievements that find a medium of expression in the stupendous rendering of the national hero by Subodh Bhave. The film was made with a budget of 7 crores and if online information is to be taken as proof, it made twice of that amount and was a big hit. Rumour has it that Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush received a standing ovation on its premier. For anyone who is willing to look beyond the film’s technical shortcomings and repetitive style of storytelling, I don’t see any reason why it would not be a success.

Makarand (Chinmay Mandlekar) is an idealistic reporter who is sent to cover a program by his editor wherein an audio snippet of revered Bal Gangadhar Tilak, unearthed by an organization, is played for the public for the first time. Makarand is inspired by the voice and oratory skills of the man and by his vision of Bharat and its youth. He begins researching the Lokmanya and starts drawing parallels of his interpretation of Bharat under British rule with that of what has become an equally decadent and morally bankrupt society of today. He realizes that the only difference is, we are now captives not to a foreign empire but to our own people. People who are slaves of their tunnel vision for their own benefits and the corruption that is rampant and plaguing society. As he digs deeper into the life of the Lokmanya, we see two parallel tracks of the story unfold simultaneously. One is the current timeline where Makarand tries to implement the values and teachings of the Lokmanya and the other in the pre-independence era where we get to see Tilak go up against the British Raj as he battles them on issues like freedom of the press and unbiased writing exposing the local nexus with the British Raj, the abolishment of child marriage, dealing of the British Raj of an epidemic and how he establishes contacts with other likeminded individuals like Swami Vivekananda.

The Lokmanya knows all too well about the evils of child marriage but when his compatriot Gopal Ganesh Agarkar (Sameer Vidwans), with the help of the British, sets out to curb the heinous tradition, he stands against the mission. According to him, whatever changes need to be indoctrinated in Hinduism must only be done by the free Hindus. For him, the freedom of the country was the most important factor before any change or re-enactment of the culture or laws of the society could be formulated. It is a difficult concept to understand on the surface but when you think closely about it, it does make a lot of sense. Even in the face of a trial that is poised to hand him over a long prison statement, The Lokmanya is not at all pusillanimous. Instead, he roars like a tiger and reminds the British that there is a higher power that governs all men and country.

Subodh Bhave is towering as the Lokmanya. He effortlessly slips under the skin of the character and delivers a performance that alone is worth the price of admission. He is so inspiring in his rendition of the epic scenes and dialogues that it is difficult to take one’s eyes off him. I nearly shared his picture with an epic subtitled dialogue before realizing that I should instead share pictures of the real Lokmanya. That’s how good he is. You forget for a while that he is merely portraying a character and take him to be the character. The writers of the film understand how apt he is at playing the man and hence they try writing the screenplay in such a way that Tilak’s character basically travels from one epic scene to another giving Bhave ample opportunity to bamboozle the audiences with his acting prowess and power-packed rendering of the national hero. There are a few quiet scenes involving him here and there and they are equally well done. It must be added that the sweeping background score helps the feeling and inspirational mood of the character on more than one occasion. The score of Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush does tell us how to react to a particular scene and that, in this case, is not a bad thing.

Chinmay Mandlekar as Makarand is equally effective. It is easier to connect to his character since he is from a contemporary time and the issues that he faces are things that we face on a day-to-day basis. We totally understand his frustration and inability to cope with society after he is inspired by the highly nationalistic views of the Lokmanya. Mandlekar beautifully brings out the subtle nuances of the character and that in turn adds a lot to his essay. The writing is on point as far as Makarand’s character is concerned. Little things like how he forgets to wish a kid who has just landed with a job in the US as he is disillusioned by what he had just imagined Tilak speaking about how the youth should develop themselves and the country along with them and what was happening in front of him, was neatly done. The same can be said about a sequence in which Makarand is arrested. The scene where he opens up about how he feels about the state of affairs in the city and the inspiration that he is getting from the Lokmanya to his fiancé is also beautifully executed. Suffice is to say that both the tracks are masterfully enacted by two actors who go about their characters in very different ways and yet extract genuine emotions from the audiences.

Apart from Bhave and Mandlekar, Priya Bapat as Sameera, Makarand’s fiancé, and Sameer Vidwans as Gopal Ganesh Agarkar are fantastic in their respective parts. Priya is the perfect foil to Mandlekar as she, from time to time, asks the questions that we want to ask Mandlekar. He gives his answers to these questions, enabling us to dwell in the psyche of the man and how he has been inspired by the thoughts and actions of the Lokmanya. The way in which she reacts to him also adds a lot to the essay. Sameer Vidwans, on the other hand, starts off as a dear friend of the Lokmanya but as the film progresses the two grow further and further apart from each other due to the various differences in their thought process. This rift is wonderfully realized and Vidwans plays a stellar role in its success. While Mandlekar and Bhave are the mainstays of the film, Priya and Sameer aid their respective essays by being the perfect foils to them.

Om Raut’s Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush is beautiful to look at and the credit for that must be given to its lush cinematography. It must be added that apart from the sequences where CGI is used, the film constantly looks great and a lot more costly than it is. My only major qualm with the film is with the CGI of it which is so ineffective and poorly done that even a kid could rip it apart. They could have easily done a better job with it even though the budget was not all that high. In some key scenes like the ones where Khudiram Bose walks away after killing some Britishers or the Lokmanya walks off in style after foiling a bid by the government to formulate a law. These scenes are key and are supposed to incite excitement and inspiration, but the poor CGI mars the impact to some extent. Also, the film felt like a highlight on the life of the Lokmanya and the approach the makers take to the storytelling didn’t leave them with enough time to get into details of Tilak’s life. So, it may feel a little underwhelming in the end.

Overall, Lokmanya: Ek Yugpurush is the kind of film that we are in dire need of in these times. There is a sense of nationalism and pride in it that is overwhelmingly exciting and inspiring. Add to that, stellar performances from Subodh Bhave and Chinmay Mandlekar and you have a film that is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

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