Jitendra Joshi, who plays the lead character ‘Nishikant’ in Godavari won the best actor award at IFFI to be the only 4th Indian actor to win this award in the last 60 years! To add to the credibility, Godavari was the only Marathi film among the six films selected in Indian languages by the government for Cannes and the only Indian film at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.
One of the most silent characters of Godavari – Nashik – has a lot of mythological significance due to its references to stories of Ramayana, birthplace of Hanuman, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, Kumbh Mela, source of Godavari, etc. However, even in contemporary times, the ancient city of Nashik, on the banks of the river Godavari is seen to be maintaining its traditions going on for years together.
Nikhil Mahajan’s ‘Godavari’ is about a traditional family in old Nashik. Nishikant Deshmukh (Jitendra Joshi) is a young man who develops a negative outlook about life as he is compelled to take charge of his hierarchical business. The film opens with a stressed-out, chain-smoking Nishikant zipping around on a two-wheeler collecting rent from tenants. He seems irritated with everyone, be it his wife, his mother and even his senile grandfather, who repeatedly asks if the water in the river has touched Lord Maruti’s (Hanuman) feet.
Nishikant’s sombre mood is reinforced by the darkness of the apartment he leads his secluded life in, separated from his family because of constant irritation, quarrels, and unhappiness on his close ones and relationships. The same is subtly depicted in a scene when Nishikant’s daughter utters that “she’s bored at home,” Nishikant replies “me, too!” The cinematography, with long shots from various angles also communicates how insignificant Nishikant’s life has become (at least for himself).
To add to his woes comes an offer from a developer to purchase the family’s land holdings, which would require evicting his tenants creates more pressure on Nishikant. If that was not enough, one day Nishikant comes to know of something that changes his outlook on life. The news makes Nishikant look at himself, family, tradition, and Godavari afresh. The details that have been missing for so long begin to confront him anew. Godavari becomes the journey of life from angry, aggressive to calm and loving, rather, from disbelief to faith or belief. This sets Nishikant on a spiritual journey in which the mighty river Godavari takes the attention.
Nikhil Mahajan’s Godavari is not your conventional run-of-the-mill melodramatic or over the top hero-heroine-villain movies; it takes time to set its tone. For one Godavari can be termed as a character study centred around a tetchy landlord’s relationship to the river.
Vikram Gokhale, in those momentary and blurred shots leaves a lasting impression coupled with his single oft-repeated dialogue about the water touching Maruti’s (Lord Hanuman) feet. Nikhil Mahajan’s Godavari has the best of the actors with impactful, natural performance. Jitendra Joshi’s fiery-eyed portrayal of the troubled Nishikant, as also his pensive and plaintive friend Kaasav (Priyadarshan Jadhav). The mother, played by Neena Kulkarni, also shines with her subtle and authentic acting.
It’s a given that Marathi cinema has extraordinary content; Godavari is for those who like to see meaningful cinema and take back the message in the essence.
Director: Nikhil Mahajan
Cast: Jitendra Joshi, Neena Kulkarni, Sanjay Mone, Priyadarshan Jadhav, Gauri Nalavde and Vikram Gokhale