Quite some days back I went with my friends to the famous shrines of Mumbai, Siddhivinayak and Mahalaxmi- an exhausting schedule for one day. Pre visit I was wondering why I did not think of visiting these places with mother. Post visit I was regretting why I did not stick to the idea of avoiding them. I had good memory of Shegaon temple, remember? But I should not have forgotten that I liked it because it was an exception and definition of exception is, ‘not always’. Shegaon is a small pilgrimage town compared to Mumbai’s richie rich Siddhivinayak. Maybe I assumed metro city’s god to be more organized and more set to see his devotees.
We saw that a puja thali shop near the temple had hired some salesmen to stand in line by the shop and persuade (read intimidate) devotees into buying thalis from the shop. Then another shopkeeper deliberately misinformed me on his ‘official status’ to deposit camera with him and in exchange buy his unsavory sweets at an exorbitant price. All puja thali shops give receipt for camera deposits. Thank Siddhivinayak I did not buy his sweets or lie. I don’t think you get a puja thali at less than hundred bucks there. Inside there were guys proclaiming an up, close and personal, but paid darshan of the idol. If you probe on the rates you will know that the Mandir is century old but god likes to live in present times and is fully aware of his star status. Siddhivinayak is a temple with high security and policemen patrolling the area so you know these crooks were conveniently ignored by the patrolling crew. Later we learned that the idol darshan was closed for some renovation, a pujari who announced it to the people in high pitched voice and claimed it had been declared on their official website and newspapers. So what those guys were promising us? Would we get darshan if we had paid them money? I tried to imagine an entry into the temple without a single penny with me and it would be an adventure for sure. Mahalaxmi temple visit wasn’t so bad.
Deool, Marathi film is a story of birth of one such votive Shrine and the after effects on a simple village. Wikipedia says that the original builder of Siddhivinayak temple of Mumbai lives in a state of despair. Something similar is the destiny of Kesha a simple guy of Mangrul. Mangrul is a drought affected village of Maharashtra. One afternoon Kesha dreams that lord Dattatray has appeared in his village, a devotional soul, he believes it to be an encounter with god and runs to inform everybody. The village folks first doubt on the interpretation of dream, never questioning Kesha’s honesty and gradually accept and believe that Mangrul is now a blessed village.
Before Kesha’s dream, Mangrul is a quaint and a laid back village. In fact the local news reporter complains to his friends on the lack of any sensational news like murder or rape. Though it does show some glimpses that globalization has spread its tentacles here too. Very ironically, people have television sets with all world channels but there is power and water shortage, mobiles but no equipped hospital. In short Mangrul is an ignored dot on political atlas. If city folks are unaware of life of these people, Mangrulites are quite in touch with outside world.
Some more happening in the village backyard is an archeological survey conducted as some traces are found of an ancient lost civilization. We never learn about the archeological progress later in the story, it is a metaphor, a guessing of past evaporation of a whole society as we witness in present the degradation of Mangrul. Fall of human values as common factors in both times.
The other main characters in the story are Bhau (Nana Patekar) a local politician and Anna kulkarni (Dilip Prabhavalkar) social worker and thinker working diligently on the model of an adequate hospital for Mangrul. Anna is a respectful figure in the village and Kesha trusts him for guidance even though Anna is a nonbeliever. Pragmatic Anna doesn’t dismiss Kesha’s dream but warns him that one should keep such sacred experiences to themselves. It is little disheartening that Anna doesn’t put up any fight, once he realizes that villagers have opted for temple as their priority, he feels impossible to turn the fast spinning wheel of change, gives up on the folks and leaves the chaotic Mangrul to his son in Bengaluru.
It is a money flood in Mangrul; everyone has a business associated with the temple. Bhau has promoted from an opportunist but concerned politician to an arrogant MLA. You get burgers and tikkis in the village but probably there is still no hospital. Kesha has not changed a bit though. His love for his dying cow kardi however shakes his belief that everything has changed for better. Realization dawns on him that humanity is lost and god is a prisoner in the temple. So Kesha sets to rescue him….