After a long time, it felt like I watched a story, not a film. And more than films, I love stories – relatable, true to life, heartwarming stories that you find in your neighbourhood. Marathi film Pondicherry is one such story. Kudos to the writers Sachin Kundalkar and Tejas Modak for writing such a wonderful film. The duo has previously also written Siddharth Chandekar and Sonali Kulkarni’s Gulabjaam which is another favourite of mine. If you have watched this film, there is one similarity I found between these two – there is a lesson in it! Both the films teach you how to let go of what you love, even if it means the world to you. Having said that, the characters in both the stories face different fates and learn to let go in their own ways. While Radha in Gulabjaam was emotionally invested in Aditya, Nikita (Sai Tamhankar) in Pondicherry was still in love with her husband. Though she finds emotional respite in Rohan (Vaibhav Tatwawadi), she is, by choice, holding on to the memories of her late husband.
As Pondicherry is streaming on Planet Marathi, a platform of which not many people may not know of, especially the non-Marathi movie buffs, I will tell you the Pondicherry movie story in short so that you understand the complexities and simplicities of it. But yes, I will try my best to not reveal it all so that you enjoy the film while you watch it.
Pondicherry Movie Plot
Pondicherry is primarily a mother-son’s story. The duo is struggling, both emotionally and financially, after the father, who was working in the Merchant Navy, goes missing in an accident. To meet ends, Nikita starts renting out rooms of her house while working as a tour guide for another company. The house, that she has opened for business, still belongs to her missing husband and his brother due to which she cannot legally run a business on the property. When the police come to inquire, the guests are introduced as family members to stay away from the trouble.
Rohan, Nikita’s guest, works for biggies who want to convert old houses and properties into hotels. His job is to get into the houses, convince the families or individuals to sell the property – sometimes by creating a rift in the families, and other times, by getting emotionally close to the women of the family. In short, vacate the property by mentally and emotionally convincing or destroying the decision-maker. No bloodshed, no legalities involved!
But this guy comes with a backstory, an emotional baggage that came from loneliness and a bitter divorce that felt more like a betrayal than seperation. His wife leaves him (while still being very much in love with him) as he doesn’t want children and later, her mother demands a huge amount as dowry. Rohan meets his ex-wife again at the homestay while not leaving a chance to emotionally manipulate Nikita.
What brings Nikita closer to Rohan as she still awaits the return of her husband? Ishan, her son’s emotional connection with the guy. Before Rohan enters their life, both mother-son duo are shown to be living a mechanical life, trying to make ends meet. As Nikita is constantly worried about financial security, she doesn’t even sit back and have a hearty chat with her son. The kid is hence forced to behave like an adult. He goes grocery shopping all by himself and if someone offers him something out of kindness, he first checks if he has money to pay them. He is well-aware of the situation and is supporting his mother in all the ways he can. Rohan, who has been lonely all his life, starts seeing himself in the kid. He then befriends Ishan and the kid finally starts living a normal childhood – one where he doesn’t have to count money, be responsible, or do adult stuff like grocery shopping. He starts playing and roaming around with Rohan. While Nikita finds herself getting emotionally attached to Rohan, Ishan finds a father in him.
As all of it starts falling in place, Rohan convinces Nikita’s brother-in-law, the co-owner of the house she is living in, to sell the property. Not convinced about leaving the property as she expects her husband’s return, she is left with no other choice than to move into an apartment with her son and give a nod to the sale of the house. With a heavy heart, as she is ready to move into the apartment, she gets to know from her mother, who has flown to Pondicherry from Pune to be with her daughter for a few days, that Rohan was married to Manasi, another guest at her house. Her mother also breaks the news of him being the mastermind of the property deal.
As Nikita comes back home to confront Rohan, she finds out that he has already left the property. What happens next is an interesting twist to watch. Nikita, not only loses the house and a trust-worthy companion that she had found in Rohan, she also finally gets to know that her husband is not missing anymore, he is dead.
What Works in Pondicherry’s favour?
Firstly, the story. The writers and the director slowly unties every knot of the emotionally complicated story for you without emotionally or mentally exhausting you. Though it moves you, it won’t drain you.
I also loved the way Sai Tamhankar is portrayed in the film. She belongs to the hospitality industry and hence has to look presentable all the time. Though she dresses well and looks good, the pain on her face is unavoidable. You can’t ignore her emotional fatigue. Her face does more talking than her words. And the child actor! What a performer! The strain that the mother and son are facing and the way it is affecting their relationship and life, it has been very well shown on the screen. Tanmay Kulkarni as Ishan is remarkable.
The scene where Sai Tamhankar breaks down when she comes to know her husband is dead is heart-wrenching, especially when she hugs her son and cries. The way he comforts his mother practically by confirming that they already knew that the father has drowned breaks your heart. The strength that they possess and display from time to time, the circumstantial aloofness between them yet being there for each other is the beauty of their relationship.
Similarly, a scene where Ishan hugs Rohan and cries his heart out says a lot about his bonding with Rohan and his readiness to let him go yet hold on to whatever life offers of Rohan to him is soul-stirring.
Though all of this works in the film’s favour, at some places, I still felt that the depth was missing. More than the depth, I thought the scenes ended too soon. It didn’t let me, as an audience, get involved in what is unfolding emotionally between Rohan and Nikita or Rohan and Ishan. Before I could feel the emotional connection with what the characters are going through, the scenes ended. That, I thought, was too quick a wrap up for scenes that demanded my attention as a viewer.
All in all, a film that I enjoyed watching. With a different story, Pondicherry is a breath of fresh air for movie lovers.
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Streaming On: Planet Marathi