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Upperstall Review

Synopsis


Manoos

 

Marathi, Drama, 1939, 160 min




Cast And Crew



The film is a tragedy featuring a policeman Ganpat (Modak) and a prostitute Maina (Hublikar). Ganpat saves Maina from a police raid on a brothel. They fall in love. However her reputation and sense of guilt resist his attempts to rehabilitate her. Ganpat's respectable middle-class mother (Sundarabai) symbolizes what he would like Maina to be like. But feeling her past would always catch up with her, Maina leaves Ganpat. She is arrested for killing her wicked uncle and refuses Ganpat's offer to release her from prison.




Manoos is arguably regarded as Shantaram's finest film. It might well be so for Manoos is significant not only in terms of thematic content but also as a work of motion picture art, as well as for its technical innovations and artistic integrity particularly in the use of physical spaces to represent mental states of the characters.

The film is entirely shot on sets including the street corners, alleys, corridors etc. and consists mainly of night scenes often in heavy shadows. The only location sequence is the film's romantic duet wherein Maina and Ganpat blunder on to a film set. ( Shantaram uses the occasion to include a delightful spoof on the rival studio, Bombay Talkies kind of cinema. The hero and heroine of the film sit by a tree and sing similar to Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani in Achchut Kanya (1936). Wherever the characters move, the entire orchestra playing live follow them! And after the song, the Anglo-Indian girl who speaks and sings with an English accent removes her dark long wig and sari to walk away in a western dress!) However the biggest hit of the film was the multi-lingual song Kashalya Udyaachi Baat set in Tamil, Telegu, Bengali, Gujarati and Punjabi in addition to its Marathi refrain as Maina entertains her clients who are from all over India. This song is also a kind of spoof alluding to familiar stereotypes from the corresponding film centers.

The key sequence highlighting Maina's dilemma that she can neither come to terms with her past nor her present is strikingly handled. Maina and Ganpat's mother are both lying side by side in the prayer room. While the old woman is peacefully asleep, the former is visibly agitated. Her hand accidentally touches the tanpura used by the old woman during her prayers. The tanpura strikes a chord. With utmost economy and in a quick montage of shots of Maina, the deity, the prayer book, the flickering light of the oil lamp Shantaram is able to show her state of mind in a purely cinematic language.

Shanta Hublikar became an icon in Marathi Cinema with her role as Maina. In fact Kashalya Udyaachi Baat was also the title of her autobiography (1990). Modak too became a top Marathi star following Manoos. However his earlier reputation in contemporary socials like Manoos was later superceded by his overwhelming success in Sant Dnyaneshwar (1940) after which he acted in mainly mythologicals. He went on to play Krishna in 29 films in Marathi, Hindi and Bhojpuri!

However like in Kunku (1937) what really disturbs one in Manoos is the film's ending. By refusing a better life for herself and going back to where she came from, the whore feels she is not fit for a normal life - Once a whore, always a whore. Thus the film ends up with a situation, which is a kind of status quo without any solution in sight and an outlook that is far from revolutionary.




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