When Mangesh Joshi wrapped up a tough shooting of his third feature film – a road movie about a big joint family in Pune – late last year, little did he know that the hiccups he faced in schedules would be nothing compared to what was in store in the year 2020.
Karkhanisanchi Waari (Ashes on a Road Trip), a satirical comment on the Indian joint family starring veteran Mohan Agashe, Court and Sir actor Geetanjali Kulkarni and Sacred Games star Amey Wagh, was set for post-production when the coronavirus pandemic paralysed life in the country.
“We were stuck with an unfinished film when the pandemic hit,” Joshi told The Sunday Financial Express. “Everything was locked down,” adds the Marathi filmmaker, who struggled to complete his new film by working from home during the lockdown and raced to take advantage of easing of restrictions in June.
Karkhanisanchi Waari, which had its world premiere at the ongoing 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival, had a photo finish to premiering the film at the Japanese capital. “We got the DCP (digital print) of the film on October 20, only 15 days before the world premiere,” says Joshi. The film is the only Indian entry at the Tokyo festival, which began on October 31. “The Tokyo film festival was very cooperative. They said we understand the situation as India was suffering in a bigger way,” says Joshi referring to the support he received in submitting the film to the festival. “Tokyo was the first festival where we submitted our film for selection. We were not keen on participating in online film festivals,” he adds. The Tokyo festival is a physical edition this year though travel restrictions have prevented foreign filmmakers like Joshi from appearing at the event in person.
The 149-minute film tells the story of the Karkhanis, the last joint family of Pune. After the family patriarch dies, his siblings and son undertake a road journey to Pandharpur to immerse his ashes in the holy Chandrabhaga river. The journey from Pune to Pandharpur is filled with comic incidents and moments as every kin eyes their share of the family fortune.
“Four years ago, my eldest uncle died and all my extended family came together to mourn the death,” says Joshi, who was born in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. “I later wrote a story based on the characters of my family and showed it to my co-writer Archana Borhade, who is also producer and cinematographer of the film,” he adds. “We went on to create more characters.”
While the film weaves together emotional individual stories of its main characters to extend its satirical passage, it lays down a fun-filled canvas of the clash between the conventional and contemporary aspects of the society. “There is always a conflict of interest in joint family,” explains the director. “I believe joint family was a practical choice at one point of time, but it is disappearing today. It is not a sad ending; it is only practical. The world is becoming smaller.”
Joshi, who has a satirical bend for looking at things as seen in his previous two feature films – Bhojpuri film He (2011) about a teenager from Bihar in the slums of Mumbai and Marathi film Lathe Joshi (2016) about a factory worker pushed out of job by mechanisation — believes the treatment offers him a fresh way to look at life.
“My first nature is looking at things in a satirical, sarcastic or cynical way. I look at death in a different way. A person who dies is free from worries,” he says. A character in Karkhanisanchi Waari says, “Don’t pity the dead, pity the living.” The director’s next film is also going to be a satire based on death while commenting on the political and caste system and economy.