Siddhi Vinayak Cine Vision Pvt. Ltd.’s Mee Sindhutai Sapkal (Marathi; tax-free) is an inspiring, true-life story of a downtrodden Maharashtrian woman, Sindhutai Sapkal, who fights the society’s ills and finally emerges victorious.
Twelve-year-old Chindi (Pranjal Shetye), spends her time grazing buffaloes in the interiors of Vidarbha. Whenever she gets a chance, she pushes the buffaloes into the water and runs to the nearby school, where she studies in the fourth standard. But even before she can hit puberty, she is married off to a 30-year-old farmhand, Shrihari Sapkal (Upendra Limaye). After marriage and giving birth to two sons, Chindi (Tejaswini Pandit) continues to devour the newspapers in which the groceries come wrapped up, for interesting tidbits and poems she loves. Her husband and mother-in-law discourage such behaviour. In fact, her frustrated husband is convinced that by reading the newspapers, she is trying to prove that she is more educated than him; he, therefore, beats her up regularly.
Meanwhile, Chindi gets involved in a local conflict, causing some harm to landlord Damdaji Asatkar (Ganesh Yadav). Enraged, Asatkar tells Shrihari Sapkal that Chindi had been sleeping with him. Chindi is thus thrown out of her in-laws’ house even though she is pregnant. She gives birth, to a daughter this time, in a cowshed. Desolate and destitute, she leaves for her mother’s place with her newborn girl but her mother (Charusheela Sable) refuses to take her back. Not knowing what to do, Chindi tries to commit suicide twice. Once she lies down on the railway track and misses the train by inches. On another occasion, she climbs on top of a cliff and plans to jump in the valley below. However, stopped by the cries of her infant daughter, Chindi gathers courage and decides to face the world. She starts wandering from place to place, singing ballads in praise of God and goodness. Even as her own daughter grows older, she starts adopting orphan girls from the streets and gives them a home. She has now changed her name from Chindi to Sindhu. Many years on, Sindhu, now known as Sindhutai, has three ashrams sheltering around a thousand kids. Years later, Sindhutai’s husband returns to her. Does she take him back in her fold?
Based on the book, ‘Mee Vanvasi’, by Sindhutai Sapkal, the screenplay of the film by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan and Sanjay Pawar is very good. The film switches between Sindhutai Sapkal’s conversation with fellow traveller Ananth Mahadevan on a flight to the US, and her reminiscences of her past life. This takes the audience through the complete story of Sindhutai who is known as the Mother Teresa of Maharashtra.
Sanjay Pawar’s dialogues are mostly in the dialect spoken in rural Maharashtra. His dialogue, ‘Bhaashan hai to raashan hai’, mouthed by the older Sindhutai in the film, will be loved by the audience. However, what the film lacks is emotions. A story of this kind should have had heart wrenching sentiments for it to work well.
Tejaswini Pandit, who plays Chindi and Sindhutai from 24 years to 40 years, does an extraordinary job. Jyoti Chandekar, who plays the elderly Sindhutai, is good. Pranjal Shetye, who plays the character of Chindi when she is young, performs ably. Upendra Limaye, Neena Kulkarni (as Bai), Charusheela Sable, Ganesh Yadav and Suhas Palshikar are effective. Jaywant Wadkar, Urmila Nimbalkar and Kashyap Parulekar pass muster. Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s direction is good. He sticks to the true story of Sindhutai, without adding fictional elements in the drama. He manages to bring out the drama in Sindhutai’s life very well. The audience will feel for her misfortune and get inspired by her feats. Music (Ashok Patki) is good and incorporates many Marathi abhangas. Cinematography by K. Rajkumar is fair. Editing, again by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, is alright.
On the whole, Mee Sindhutai Sapkal is a good film but more for the smaller centres.