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Pondicherry Movie Review

by rameshe

Critic’s Rating : 3.5 / 5

Pondicherry Movie Review : Sai Tamhankar and Vaibhav Tatwawadi shine in this beautiful film

It’s been one of the most talked-about films since the last three years, and Sachin Kundalkar’s Pondicherry lives up to the hype for multiple reasons. The first reason obviously is the fact that this is the first Marathi and one of the first Indian feature films to be shot entirely on a smartphone. The second reason is the cast, featuring Sai Tamhankar, Vaibhav Tatwawadi, Amruta Khanvilkar and child actor Tanmay Kulkarni in pivotal roles, and Mahesh Manjrekar and Neena Kulkarni in brief but impactful supporting roles. These things come beautifully together through Sachin Kundalkar’s vision and Milind Jog’s (smartphone) camerawork.

The film predominantly revolves around Nikita (Sai Tamhankar), her son Ishaan (Tanmay Kulkarni) and their life. While all seems fine on the surface as Nikita goes about running the homestay and doubling up as a tour guide, the question about her absent husband keeps popping up in your minds. An answer is provided by Nikita when Rohan (Vaibhav Tatwawadi), her guest, asks her about him. But it still doesn’t make things crystal clear. Rohan, on the other hand, gradually befriends Nikita and earns the trust of Ishaan as well. While he seems like a genuine guy, a truth about his actions is hidden from Nikita. The entry of Manasi (Amruta Khanvilkar), who has a connection with Rohan from before, changes things. What and how is for you to find out.

Like most of Kundalkar’s films, Pondicherry has a polished, almost European film-like persona. The aesthetics come forth beautifully and the city and its French side have a big role to play in this. Pondicherry, the city, too is an equally important character here. While there’s internal turmoil in the human characters’ minds, the city adds calmness to their experience, connecting them and changing their perspective. Could this story have unfolded in another city? Maybe. But would that city have done justice to it? Definitely not.

Pondicherry gives a masterclass in visuals, thanks to Jog’s cinematography. Shooting with a smartphone has its drawbacks, not just for the people behind the lens, but the actors as well. However, the pros outdo the cons in Pondicherry. Debarpito Saha’s music is a treat to the ears too.

While technical finesse makes it a complete package, any film cannot work without good performances and direction. Sai delivers a fantastic and layered performance as a woman torn between responsibility and acceptance. This is one of her finest performances till date. Vaibhav delivers a nuanced performance that has shades of grey, but isn’t hateable. Amruta is a surprise package. While her role is brief, she does complete justice to it. Another nuanced performance comes from Tanmay, the kid.

The drawback of Pondicherry is the way it unfolds. The running time is just perfect, but somehow the flow of the film comes across as rushed. Or maybe it’s because there are too many things happening simultaneously. Then there’s the climax, which comes across as a very easy answer – not a bad thing, but definitely predictable.

Pondicherry may not strike the perfect chords with regular viewers. But for those who follow global cinema, this film is a treat to watch.

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