Readers Write In #562: VAALVI (Termite/s) – Marathi

Posted on March 22, 2023


By An Jo

Spoiler alerts:

As soon as the first scene is played out on the screen in ‘Vaalvi‘, it immediately takes you back to the MASTER’S, Sir Alfred’s ‘DIAL M FOR MURDER.’  And then of course, our own Kundan’s master-piece, JAANE BHI DO YAARO, starring, THE, Satish Shah. There’s a ‘practice’, a rehearsal going on as to how a husband and wife would commit suicide: And this is played out between the husband Aniket (Swapnil Joshi), and Shivani Surve (Devika alias Reshma alias Gayatri – who cares?). The intricacies of a staged-suicide are being planned, with each and every corner-test case being thought of and emulated [of course by the girl-friend]. The hilarity of the plot that’s about to take a course of 105 minutes hits you when Aniket, guzzling a pizza, tells his girl-friend that nothing can go wrong! “The silver gun, fake, is mine; while the real one, the black one is my wife Avani’s (Anita Date-Kelkar): And then he continues chomping on the pizza while the lady tries to figure out all possibilities, impossibilities, and probabilities. 

Paresh Mokashi, the Marathi director of gems like ‘Harishchandracha Factory‘ and ‘Elizabeth Ekadashi‘, shines through with this jewel of a tribute to both Hitch (no; not the slap-gate Hitch) and Kundan Shah. 

I wouldn’t want to reveal much about the plot: it’s better you see it on your own; But there are wonderful, wittily written scenes that will throw you off-balance. 

1> Kidney-stone Joke: पी, पाणी, तुलाकिड्नीस्टोनआहे (In Marathi, पाणीपी, means ‘drink water’; In English, Peeing is urination.) Now the boulder that stands between the over-flowing water resource that Aniket’s girl-friend keeps offering is to soften a stone, that, kidney-stone. The movie, as a ‘running stream’ of thoughts and images, is a perfect reflection of this affliction.

2> Observe the tribute to Hitchcock when all the lead characters, alive, refer to the ‘Perfect Suicide pact’ that transforms disastrously to the ‘Perfect Murder.’

3> Chips/Wafers (that psychological advantage): It is Avani’s psychiatrist Dr. Anshuman (Subodh Bhave) who starts chomping on chips when in tension on a tension-ridden, hilarious road-trip on New Year’s Eve. Observe how and when both Devika and Aniket start devouring ‘wafers.’

4> Deviating discussions/discourse: On their road-trip to ‘incinerate’ or ‘bury’ or ‘throw’ bodies to rot in the jungle, there are wonderful existential discussions!! 0.66 paise should be rounded off to 70 naye paise, educates Aniket, while the petrol-pump guy just stands there saying, ‘Happy New Year, jaane do na saab.’ The discussion between Aniket and Dr. Anshuman doesn’t stop there; it proceeds to the British-raj times when the salary was, at the maximum, 2-5 rupees!! Hence asking for 0.66 paise back then made sense, not today! In these days of Paytm! It is the ‘situational’, matter-of-fact discussion in the ambience prevalent that Mokashi creates, that is quite disturbing, and,comedy at its darkest. 

5>  India’s population and walkers’ licenses: Discussions, with three dead-bodies in tow, now swivel around accidents happening on Indian highways where there’s no traffic! A lady, who walked into Dr. Devaki’s dental clinic and talked of ‘माणुसकी’ (Humanity) immediately reveals her chameleon-esqe characteristics not once, but thrice! She brings her bleeding mother-in-law to Dr. Devika’s dental office, talks of humanity, and then ‘metamorphoses’ into a ‘wife’ who wants to enjoy New Year’s Eve because—and she clearly lays the blame here—her husband, is doing so as well! A complete mad-cap scene, and Mokashi hits the ball out the park.

6> There’s a line that Aniket delivers to Dr. Devika in the initial scene: “You will never, ever, get a wife who’s willing to commit suicide. Think about this first before you think of anything else, and all your corner-case test-cases. 

7>‘पुढेकुठेजाऊ?’(Where should we go now?): Asks Dr. Anshuman; and Subodh’s Aniket replies: ‘आखयामहाराष्ट्राचापाठनाहीकेलोमी |’ (I haven’t learnt the whole of Maharashtra’s road-map!) Swapnil delivers the line in such a dead-pan fashion, it is virtually difficult for one not to control one’s laugh.

8>  The Climax: One couldn’t have fathomed that; though the running ‘thread’ is that of ‘termites.’Termites kept someone alive; termites also killed many.

Performances are top-notch from all the lead actors: Subodh Bhave is terrific as the psychiatrist; Surve is fantastic as the fantastic dental/mental who’s ready to bash or shoot anyone per her mood. Anita Date-Kelkar is eccentric as the psychologically damaged soul in a broken marriage.

It is Swapnil Joshi’s Aniket that is a stand-out. He is brilliantly ‘confused’ and constructs a performance that is a superb marriage between stupidity and innocence. This is a performance of a life-time. His acts represent exactly the moods similar to a ‘deer-caught-in-the-headlights.’ Flight or fight are his main responses [mainly flight] and he covers ALL in his performance. Truly outstanding.

An UNMISSABLE piece of minimalist cinema, with just 4 main characters, hints, paths, and meta galore, this is one movie that you cannot afford to shift your butt but just sit still, till the end credits roll-over.