This write up is as much a review as it is a trip down memory lane.
My generation as well as probably my parents’ grew up reading the exploits of the adorable, smart and resourceful Banesh Fene or Faster Fene (FaFe) as he was more lovingly known. We talked about him and enjoyed his stories with the same fervour as we did The Famous Five, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew – popular teen/tween fiction then. I am so thankful to an entire lot of parents who coaxed and encouraged their English-medium-going children to still stay in touch with the mother tongue and read as much as possible in Marathi – what a treasure trove of children’s literature we had at our fingertips because of that! Summer vacations were never boring because when else could you read so much and not get reprimanded for not studying? A peaceful nook in the house, an endless supply of simple homemade snacks and a stack of books – and you pretty much didn’t give a damn about anything else! That nook became a hobby class, a summer camp, a self-enrichment course – all rolled into one! You could travel the entire world from that peaceful, cozy nook!
So, like I said, this is a review as well as a trip down memory lane! I was introduced to the crazy, adventurous world of FaFe at about age 10, and devoured all his books! The venerable B.R. (Or Bha Ra in Marathi) Bhagwat is probably the first documented Marathi writer who recognised and wrote children’s literature as a separate genre and treated it with as much care and respect as a separate genre deserves. He is most known for the character of FASTER FENE, an adventurous sleuth with extraordinary powers of deduction that he created sometime in the 1950s’. I had the fortune of visiting his house once, shortly after I had started reading FaFe, and I was so much in awe of meeting him, that I hardly spoke a word in his presence! But I do remember that when I had asked him some question about a FaFe book, his eyes lit up as if he were talking about his own child!! How proud he must be to have created a character who was much loved by all who read back then!!
So coming to the movie – it is the FaFe that we as children knew and loved in spirit and yet not really the same! And yet as adorable, as smart and as resourceful as that one! Now this is an almost impossible feat that the director Aditya Sarpotdar and the story/screenplay writer have managed brilliantly!
So FaFe here is older, almost an adult – appearing for the common medical entrance test after class XII. The mystery that he solves is also more serious, sinister and grave – a murder, with a scam worth crores and the careers of lakhs of brilliant students at stake. His methods of deduction are aided by all the trappings of the world as we know today – smart gadgets and the internet – and that makes him extremely contemporary and relatable to the young adults of today. They don’t need to have read the earlier books, they can still just as easily enjoy the characters and the movie! And therein lies the success of this movie!
Like I mentioned, FaFe is older, the mystery and the villains more sinister and the ending more final and unforgiving to the villains than in the younger FaFe versions in books – the villain must die, not just be handcuffed and led away by the police, and FaFe must prove just how much smarter he is than the bad ones while putting himself and his near and dear ones in grave danger, rather than the earlier versions where often he would treat solving a mystery as an adventure without really worrying about his loved ones – even the villains in the books had some morals back then and left the family alone, most of the times!
The creator of the character FaFe (Bha Ra Bhagwat) appearing as one of the main characters of the movie is also a contemporary twist – he acts as the moderator and morale-booster to FaFe, encouraging him to do what is right and not give up inspite of dire threats to his own life. Dilip Prabhawalkar is brilliant as usual in this role!
There could not have been a better choice than Amey Wagh to play FaFe! Honestly, months ago when I had heard that this film was in the making with him in the lead, I had had my reservations – how can an adult play an 18-year-old and look and act completely natural? But he does more than justice to he character; he literally lives it, it’s as if the role was written with him in mind! Kudos, Amey Wagh!
And Girish Kulkarni as the main villain Appa is more than sinister – he is chilling and creepy to the core! A cold-blooded murderer, a manipulator and a heartless being with an extremely twisted sense of logic – he makes your hair stand on its end with just his body language!
There are moments of humour with digs at the famous “Puneri patya” (lists of instructions for just about everything) and of course the little “BHU-BHU” (Bhushan – the little guy who is an orphan, a thief and then FaFe’s able assistant in solving the mystery).
The movie is in Marathi with English subtitles, and one doesn’t need to have read the books to watch it. It’s a completely new story anyway. Non-Marathi movie buffs will enjoy it as much as the Marathi speakers, so do go and watch! A 4.5-star rating from me for this one! टाॅक्क !!