Chaukat Raja: Accepting Children with Developmental Delay
The ?90s were not a great time for Marathi or Hindi Cinema in terms of quality of content presented. Movies were plenty but a handful of them carried themes or stories which would have a lasting impact. One such movie from the very early ?90s is 1991?s Marathi film ?Chaukat Raja?. The movie is based on a family who witnesses the struggles of a mentally challenged person and then takes him under their encouraging wing.
Madhavi and Rajan are a happily married couple who move to Mumbai with their only daughter from a village. Soon they meet Nandu, a mentally challenged man in his 30?s who behaves like a 9?10-year-old child. When Madhavi realises that Nandu is her childhood friend she warms up to him but her husband is worried and not very accepting of him. How and why the family accepts him in their fold is the story which unfolds in the film.
The movie is a classic and a milestone in Marathi and Indian Cinema. The heart-warming, empathetic yet subtle style is vastly different than the prevailing mainstream films of that time. All the actors have performed their roles to the t. Dilip Prabhavalkar who won Maharashtra State Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a developmentally challenged boy ?Nandu?, brings in a lot of innocence through his mannerisms and dialogue delivery. His response to the song ?Ek jhoka?, stage performance on the song ?Mi Asa Kasa Vegala? and his reactions to his mother?s death are some of the highlights of the film. Smita Talwalkar as Madhavi, a village housewife adjusting to Mumbai life slips into the character with ease. Her agitation when Nandu harrasses her daughter, her soft-hearted meltdown when she realises nandu is her childhood friend and how calmly she handles panicked nandu at the end of the film are an apt foil to superlative acting by the lead of the film. Dilip Kulkarni as Rajan who is sometimes slightly jealous of Nandu and Sulabha Acharya as Nandu?s mother worried about her son and his future after her, are praiseworthy. Ashok Saraf sinks his teeth in the small but pivotal role of Nandu?s neighbour and caretaker and makes it extremely memorable. Overall this film is a joy for audiences who denounce melodrama for realistic acting.
Songs were penned by Sudhir Moghe and convey the meaning of the situation they are in extremely well. The music by Anand Modak is very modern, completely unlike what the contemporaries were doing and compliments the film well. Sanjay Surkar, who helmed the film as a director was not only knowledgable but a sensitive film-maker who loved literature. His gentle style of film-making elevates the movie without making it melodramatic.
Chaukat Raja has won multiple awards and accolades and it?s surely a movie that will win your heart.