Madhuri Dixit does not inspire a garden-variety fandom but almost a delirious one bordering on reverence. When the teaser of her first Marathi film after almost a three-decade long career in Bollywood, hit the internet, it ushered a flurry of excitement. But the Tejas Deoskar directorial also stirred a fear, given the timeworn topic that does not break new ground - Bucket List.
One of the smart twists in the trope is that Dixit (Madhura Sane) does not tick things off her own bucket list but that of her 20-year-old heart donor’s. In the process, she comes into her own, beyond the labels of a daughter, wife and a mother.
The items on the 20-year-old’s list are expectedly far from audacious - they range from full-throated whistling to getting drunk overnight in a pub, a selfie with Ranbir Kapoor and the like. How Madhura navigates these aspirations within the confines of her rather conservative upper middle class family makes for some fun moments.
What Bucket List sets out to do - and for the most part, achieves is a delightful breeziness, that serves as a boon and a bane. It falls short of mining Madhuri’s mettle.
The film does not deal with a revolutionary empowerment but attempts to delve into the agency that women have within the household. It cursorily tells you how it’s Madhura’s choice to be tethered to her adopted identities after marriage and takes a humane approach to the ones that comprise her family. But even as she works her way through Sai’s bucket list we don’t know who Madhura ‘sans’ Sane is and what would grace her own bucket list? What apart from gratitude pushes her to make a drastic decision towards the end? Her character comes across as a tad thinly drawn.
Madhuri fanboys and fangirls are in for a treat since the screen still brims over with her reticent grace. Her performance lurches between evocative and playful. Teasing us with possibilities, her fiestiness remains latent. The material at hand, fails to offer her the depth to plumb.
Madhuri’s diction comes across as laboured but the supporting cast that encompasses her family lends the heft to the proceedings and keeps things sprightly. They get some of the best lines in the film and they deliver them with their seasoned flair. The scenes where Vandana Gupte (playing Madhura’s mother-in-law) and Shubha Khote (playing ‘Panji’ or Madhura’s grandmother-in-law) spar elicit the most laughs. The scene where Gupte tries to speak in Hindi with Resham Tipnis offers the necessary comic relief. Khote’s inappropriate quips and wisecracks save many a scene where the tone veers from warm to mawkish.
Watch out for Ila Bhate’s brief exchanges with Dilip Prabhavalkar - two competent actors playing off each other. Sumeet Raghavan turns on the charm as Madhura’s husband, who struggles to fight his patriarchal upbringing.
Bucket List’s treatment of the emotionally rife scenes strikes as stagy. The drunk scene, oscillates between heavy-handed and accomplished. You long to see more of her unbridled spunk when she delivers some sassy one-liners in the club scene. Props to her for uttering some banal lines without coming across as the stereotyped ‘thick-headed’ housewife.
Sumedh Mudgalkar’s ( who made a promising debut in Ashwini Bhave’s Manjha) simmering intensity stands out in the bunch of teens but calls for some checks.
Alas, this one too suffers from the curse of the second half. When the action shifts to Malaysia, the shift in tone is jarring at the cost of incomplete character arcs. The awakening seems too convenient and conflict resolutions, simplistic. The airbrushed milieu of the film does not conjure the lived-in vibe of Pune, where the film is set.
And why is the term ‘bucket list’ bandied about like a complex medical term in need of constant deconstruction? Isn’t it passe in the YOLO world we live in where even the ‘Panji’ is internet savvy?
Marathi Cinema’s Renaissance
Marathi cinema has been charting new territory with its intrepid and contemporary premises - think Fandry, Muramba, Gulaabjaam, Nude amongst many others. While Bucket List makes for an endearing watch much like familiar cinematic comfort fare, one hankers for a newer direction. Madhuri’s first filmic outing in her native language does not up the ante but plays safe. Her luminosity as a star still overshadows her deftness as an actor.
Lighthearted Family Entertainer
The dull moments are but few in the film and Madhuri lights up the screen like a dancing swarm of fireflies. In the mood for a lighthearted family entertainer? This flawed Madhuri-starrer should whet your appetite. But if you’re looking for a more evolved version of the actor, you may just have to wait, till she picks bolder narratives.
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