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Mandar Shinde

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Samantar Web Series Review

Samantar -  A Story of Two Parallel Lives
(Mandar Shinde 9822401246)

As humans, we’re always fascinated with the concept of knowing our future in advance. Astrology, palmistry, face reading, numerology, and all other arts of predicting the future have survived and thrived as businesses on the basis of two important human emotions - Fear and Hope about the unknown and uncertain future! This has inspired numerous creations in the form of stories, novels, films, and what not…

Suhas Shirvalkar was a popular Marathi writer who successfully handled a wide range of genres, such as suspense stories, detective stories, courtroom drama, horror stories, novels covering social issues, etc. Witty punch lines and philosophical deliberations have been essential highlights of his writings. Popularly known as Su.Shi. among his fans, Shirvalkar delivered hundreds of novelettes, novellas, and collections of stories based on interesting concepts, most of which were absolutely unique in the Marathi literary world. Su.Shi. was a master storyteller with a knack of presenting scenes and characters before his readers in a lively and realistic manner. Most of his works have attracted film and TV serial makers due to their structure very similar to a screenplay, with minute detailing of characters, locations, and scenes. One Marathi film, Devaki, based on his novel went on to win the national award, while Duniyadari based on his highly popular novel with the same name was one of the commercially successful Marathi films in recent times.

Satish Rajwade, an enterprising director from Marathi film industry has come up with a web series based on Samantar, another popular novel penned by Su.Shi. Samantar is a story of two individuals having no relation with each other, except a strange fact that they share the same fate with each other. Interestingly, one of them is almost a generation older than the other, implying that the life he has lived in the past will be lived in the future by the other individual. More interestingly, they’re destined to meet in flesh and blood, creating a situation where the elder one can actually warn the younger one against potential threats in his future life and can guide him to live an unsurprising life forever. This could be an oversimplified summary of the plot for Satish Rajwade’s Samantar web series currently running on MX Player. However, life is not that simple or so much predictable. You may know your future, but will you be able to change it? That’s what the web series talks about.

As mentioned earlier, Su.Shi. has written his books almost similar to executable scripts. Yet it is very challenging to convert his books into films because of heavy expectations from the huge fan following of Su.Shi. On-screen adaptations are bound to be compared with original books, and popularity of the books has already set the standards at a very high level. Casting is a tough task because the actors need to match with visual images of the characters already created by Su.Shi. in the imagination of his readers. The fans expect the stories to be presented on the screen exactly as they imagined - not a penny less, not a penny more. So the director is left with very little scope for cinematic liberty and on-screen improvisation. Satish Rajwade seems to have struck the balance well because most of the Su.Shi. fans who were skeptical about the web series before its release, are found to be going gaga over it post release.

The director has won half the battle with careful selection of actors. Having read the original novel some twenty years ago, I was curious about the cast since the day Rajwade announced this project. Apart from the two protagonists, I found Jayant Savarkar to be a pleasant surprise in the role of Swami, the astrologer. His character lays the cornerstone of this story and a weaker casting would have caused a poor first impression. Jayant Savarkar looks like the best choice here. Tejaswini Pandit and other supporting actors as well help the story develop in a speedy yet interesting manner. But there must be a very special mention about casting of two leading characters of the story.

This story is about Kumar Mahajan who is going through hardest time of his life when it dawns upon him that someone else in this world has already lived the exactly same life as his. So the life this other person, Sudarshan Chakrapani has lived in the past, will be lived in the future by Kumar Mahajan. The director Satish Rajwade has roped in Swwapnil Joshi as Kumar Mahajan and Nitish Bharadwaj as Sudarshan Chakrapani. Coincidentally (?) Nitish Bharadwaj is popularly known for the role of Shri Krishna in the grand TV serial Mahabharat by B. R. Chopra, while Swwapnil Joshi played the role of young Shri Krishna in Ramanand Sagar’s serial which followed Mahabharat on Doordarshan. In a way, Nitish Bharadwaj had already lived the on-screen life of Shri Krishna which was later to be repeated by Swwapnil Joshi, a striking similarity with the plot of this novel and web series, Samantar! I’m not sure if the director had this in his mind while casting the two actors, but it’s a great experience to watch them sharing the screen in a setup quite similar to their real lives.

Background score and cinematography add tremendous value to the story of Samantar. Beautiful drone shots from locations at Kolhapur and Konkan are a treat for the eyes. The background music has been able to achieve desired effects, setting the right mood and right pace during entire length of the web series. Last time I felt similar appreciation for the background score of Marathi movie, Tumbbad. Such experiments really look promising for the Marathi film industry.

This is the shortest length I could write after watching all episodes from first season of the web series. This would explain the amount of excitement it has brought among Su.Shi. fans. This gem of a writer has gifted us with books that are literally unputdownable (yes, that’s an official word in English language!). The director Satish Rajwade has been able to pull off the web series so well that we end up watching all episodes in one go. This can be considered as the greatest achievement on the scale applicable to original Su.Shi. creations. Very well done, Mr. Director and entire cast and crew! Next season of Samantar is highly awaited now.

- Mandar Shinde 9822401246


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