Dithee Review : Sumitra Bhave’s swansong speaks about the coexistence of life and death

The circle of life is full of uncertainties, but two things are guaranteed in it: birth and death. One brings immense joy and the other pain. In Sumitra Bhave’s Dithee, the only feature film she has directed alone (without co-director Sunil Sukthankar), the acclaimed director focuses her attention on balance, the coexistence of birth and death.

Based on the original story of noted Marathi writer DB Mokashi, Aata Amod Sunasi Ale, Dithee (Watch) begins with shots of a cloudy sky, heavy rains in a village, a raging river, and villagers returning to their homes. One of them runs to Ramji’s house to tell him that his son has drowned in the river. The news devastates Ramji and Tulsa, his pregnant daughter-in-law. Ramji cannot accept the loss. A Warkari who has been diligently a part of Pandharpur Wari for 30 years, Ramji begins to question his faith. He cannot understand why he, a person people turn to for help and comfort, has had to go through such a loss. Pain seizes him and Ramji stops doing everything that would otherwise interest him. Even the birth of his granddaughter does not take him out of his shell. Instead, he begins to blame his daughter-in-law for everything that happens around him. His friends try to bring him out of despair, but to no avail. But in a pivotal scene in the movie where Ramji goes to help with the birth of a calf, he realizes it. It is understanding that changes things.

Dithee is true to its name. It helps to see things from various perspectives. The protagonist, Ramji, goes through various stages of despair and the talented Kishor Kadam plays the role to perfection. The actor’s full potential is unleashed in this layered role and it’s good to see him at his best. Kadam stands firm amidst other fantastic actors like Dr. Mohan Agashe, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Girish Kulkarni, and Uttara Baokar, all of whom are perfectly cast here. Onkar Govardhan and Anjali Patil, as Ramji’s son and daughter-in-law respectively, leave a lasting impression in a short period of time.

While the story and acting are strongholds of the film, the cinematography (by Dhananjay Kulkarni) and background music (by Saket Kanetkar) complete the film’s identity. Kulkarni’s frames capture the essence of landscape and climate, both important aspects of Dithee. Few films have managed to use the rain as a character (Tumbbad, Kaul) and Dithee is one of them. He uses the rain as a metaphor for the protagonist’s internal confusion. Dark clouds characterize the pain and the skies clear as understanding strikes Ramji.

A strong all-star cast brings home a strong point without big sets or fanfare. There is depth and sensitivity in the way the subject of death is handled and the audience has something to think about. Essentially, all the characteristics of Bhave’s repertoire are also recorded in Dithee, making it a fitting song for the acclaimed director, who passed away last month at the age of 78.

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