‘Mandali’ – A tribute to Munshi Premchand

Talented actor-director ‘Rakesh Chaturvedi Om’ has directed film ‘MANDALI’, showing how the excellent folk art Ramleela is on the verge of extinction.

By Sushma Shandilya

Ramayan’ is a Hindu epic whose stories are staged by troupes as Ramleela in the cities, towns and villages in India during the nine days of Navratri festival, before Dussehra festival, and across the world throughout the year.

Talented actor-director ‘Rakesh Chaturvedi Om’ has directed film ‘MANDALI’, showing how the excellent folk art Ramleela is on the verge of extinction. MANDALI depicts the struggle of Ramleela artists to maintain decency, righteousness to save culture in the times of declining cultural, traditional values and decreasing social consciousness.

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This film shows a mirror to the society, raising questions on issues like the difficulties faced by Ramleela artists and the organisers making bar-girls perform vulgar dances for financial gains etc. The ethos of MANDALI is rooted in a bygone era, gradually disappearing from the Indian consciousness.

MANDALI reflects the dedication of committed, determined, dedicated people to keep the traditional folk art alive. Rakesh Chaturvedi’s true appeal clearly reflects in the story’s depiction. He has worked tirelessly with full faith and belief, dedicating his heart, mind-soul, health and money to make MANDALI a realistic film. He has done a commendable job by bringing the story alive on big screen. Sensitive audiences loving elegant, meaningful cinema will surely appreciate this creative masterpiece.

MANDALI’s story is inspired by great writer Premchand’s story ‘Ramleela’. The film’s story is written by Rakesh Chaturvedi and Vinay Agrahari. In MANDALI, the simplicity of the events, environment and characters in Premchand’s story are shown realistically. In the environment of Mathura, dialogues written in Braj language are noteworthy, providing authenticity to the story. The story focusses on a Mathura resident Mahant Ramsevak Chaubey (Vineet Kumar) and his family.

Ramsevak, owning a troupe, stages Ramleela, training his son Sitaram (Ashwath Bhatt) to play Ram’s role and his nephew Purushottam alias Puru (Abhishek Duhan) to play Lakshman’s role. Ramsevak, a staunch supporter of purity, authenticity in staging Ramleela, has strong religious beliefs but is a staunch opponent of vulgarity and commercialism. In the beginning it appears as if the hero is Sitaram, but later the story turns towards Purushottam. Sitaram and Ramsevak are then seen in peripheral roles.

Watch Video: Rakesh Chaturvedi Om speaks with Pallavi Jain

MANDALI has accomplished actors with excellent acting. Veteran actor Vineet Kumar as Ramsevak Chaubey is natural, brilliant. Abhishek Duhan’s mature performance as Purushottam Chaubey ensures that given a chance, he’ll prove his mettle in future. Aanchal Munjal impresses as the brave girl ‘Bunty’. Alka Amin as Ramsevak’s wife, Kanwaljeet Singh as MP Rajeev Narayan Singh and Brijendra Kala as Naushad Ansari have shown their talent, despite having few scenes. Other actors Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Neeraj Sood have done justice to their characters.

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Rakesh Chaturvedi’s sharp directorial vision and full control is visible throughout the film. Producers are Prashant Kumar Gupta, Geetika Gupta and Neetu Sabarwal. Made under the Reltic Pictures banner, MANDALI would have been grandeur, if it was made with a huge budget instead of a small budget and limited resources.

The cameraman Ayush Jain has shot beautiful scenes at real locations and the editing is excellent. Lyricist Sandeep Nath’s songs are beautifully sung by amazing singer Sukhwinder Singh, Dev Negi, Mugdha Karhade, Pratiksha Srivastava. The melodious background scores composed by Rahul Mishra match the mood of the film perfectly. A few shortcomings in the film can be ignored. Despite some scenes in the script being predictable, the flow of the film remains intact.

This extraordinary film reminds us of the Doordarshan serial telecast in the late 80s and early 90s. Rakesh Chaturvedi deserves full praise and encouragement for this unique effort. MANDALI is selected to be shown in November 2023 at the Goa International Film Festival. The selection of MANDALI in such a prestigious film festival proves that a talented, sensitive actor-director with immense potential, Rakesh Chaturvedi, has been grossly underestimated. MANDALI was released in theatres on October 27. This clean, honest film will be successful in appealing to the audience. This film is worth watching with the family for those believing in Indian culture and traditions. This film will prove helpful in re-establishing faith in meaningful cinema. 

Contributing Author: Sushma ‘Shandilya’ is a well-known Hindi poet and writer based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Her short stories, articles and plays have been published in leading Indian publications. Sushma ‘Shandilya’ writes on various contemporary issues including themes around women empowerment. She is also a yoga teacher.

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