In 1936, cinema in India was still in the nascent stages of flirting with sound, and as technology blossomed, the audience was bombarded with content based on spirituality and mythology. Regional cinema was moving towards a new trend at that time -- social issues. But, amidst all this, people in India went to cinema halls to witness an epic film. Prabhat Film Company produced what proved, in the coming years, a landmark film not only in the Marathi cine world, but also Indian cinema.
Tukaram -- Maharashtra's beloved saint poet was always a legend. His poems and philosophies have ruled the minds and directed the hearts of people for centuries now. Prabhat's Sant Tukaram only made this belief stronger. It showcased the life of an iconic figure and showed him to be just like the rest of us. The devotion and emotions that the film captured moved the audience. Tukaram's faith and devotion was evident in every single frame. The film received critical acclaim worldwide, but its real success was to present people with a masterpiece featuring one of their most loved saints.
Cut to 2012. A fresh film, Tukaram, chronicling the life of the saint hits theatres. Directed by Chandrakant Kulkarni, Tukaram is a fresh attempt at capturing the essence of the philosophies of Tukoba. The overall treatment given to the film tends towards realism with no over-the-top melodrama. The characters are seen as common people and there is no mystique and aura created around the main character either. The film illustrates the life of the man behind the saint. It exhibits the journey of Tukaram -- from being a self-sufficient trader, to losing everything that he owned and loved, including people and property, to becoming a complete devotee who has found higher existence. His journey, from losing earthly possessions to finding something spiritual through prayer and poetry, makes him look like a rockstar.
Something has changed between 1936 and 2012 that has made us look differently at the same man -- a man we loved then and love now. Primarily, we can see the difference in the titles of the film itself. While the earlier film was called Sant Tukaram, the latter dropped the rank to make sure that it is the person behind the saint who gets revealed. The films are different in their treatment too. Vishnupant Govind Damle's version had mystique, awe and respect for Tukaram, while the recent film makes us identify with the man and love him, rather than just respect him.
It comes as a breath of fresh air and like a ray of hope that we have taken a step to look at our icons (social, political or spiritual) for the people that they were, rather than looking at them as flawless superhuman idols. It is safe to say that times are changing; and we are changing with them.
Published in DNA After Hrs (Pune) on June 16, 2012