Review: ‘The Guardian Spirit of the House’

Fourth theatrical feature from Bombay-based Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar is a respectable if rather sluggish memory drama, looking back on protag's boyhood as the shining hope of a once-wealthy family fallen into genteel poverty after Independence. Swimming against the Bollywood tide in tenor, pic is worthy albeit unexciting fest fare.

Fourth theatrical feature from Bombay-based creative team Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar is a respectable if rather sluggish memory drama, looking back on protag’s boyhood as the shining hope of a once-wealthy family fallen into genteel poverty after Independence. Swimming against the Bollywood tide in tenor, restrained musical interludes and Marathi dialogue, pic is worthy albeit unexciting fest fare.

Called back to his home state of Maharastra to accept a life achievement award for charity medical work, Dr. Narayan feels formative memories — the story’s bulk — flooding back for the first time in 40 years. Then, he was a teenager hoping to enter med school, though the clan’s shrinking fortunes made that seem a remote possibility. As his weary mother forever points out, no one else is making the slightest effort: Onetime Gandhi partisan Dad is too high-minded to beg favors from his former comrades; grandma is ailing; an older brother and cousin are pipe-dreaming layabouts. The once-splendid house is falling apart, and the only servant left is an idiot. Some atmospheric widescreen lensing and a couple naturalistically integrated song sequences enliven thoughtful piece that could’ve used more melodrama.

The Guardian Spirit of the House

India

Production

A National Film Development Corp. production. Produced by S. Paramesarawan. Directed by Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar. Screenplay, Sumitra Bhave.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Sanjay Memane; editors, Sukthankar, Neeraj Voralia; music, Shrirang Umarani; production designer, Bhave. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Oct. 22, 2003. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) Marathi dialogue, with English subtitles. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Sidhartha Daftadar, Uttara Baokar, Sadashiv Amarapurkar, Ravindra Mankani, Atul Kulkarni, Renuka Daftardar, Rekha Kamat, Rajesh More, Nimish Kathale, Tushar Dalwi, Lianne Hill, Mahesh Elkunchwar.
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