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HomeOpinionsSwarajya, Swadharma, Pratirodh – Understanding the power and beauty of “Har Har Mahadev”

Swarajya, Swadharma, Pratirodh – Understanding the power and beauty of “Har Har Mahadev”

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  • Release Date: 25/10/2022
  • Platform: Zee5
  • Cast: Sharad Kelkar, Subodh Bhave, Nitish Chavan
  • Director: Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cinema has the power to inspire, enthrall and fill our hearts with pride and fervor. Cinema has the power to recreate a hundred-year-old glorious deed or a roaring speech that can resonate with us and shape our course of action and chain and thoughts today. Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande’s Har Har Mahadev gloriously is over the top and embodies everything that the so-called liberals have come to address as toxic hypernationalism.

I believe something as sacred as nationalism should be expressed and professed to the very limits just like true love should be unbound and unabashed like a flowing river or a torrential downpour. Our nationalism gets its color and luster from the blood and sacrifice of the ones who envisioned it and then defended it with their lives. When their sacrifices were of such a high order, its retelling is bound to get over the top.

In Har Har Mahadev, the story of Shivaji Maharaj and his Commander, Baji Prabhu Deshpande’s heroic exploits are related by none other than the Sahyadri hills of the Western Ghats. Sahyadri has his own way of storytelling and it is complete with lavish praises and God-like reverence for the ones he sees as his defenders. Thus Har Har Mahadev, in the able hands of Abhijeet Shirish Deshpande quickly metamorphs from a mere motion picture to a glorious tribute to the ones who sacrificed their everything for “Swarajya” and “Swadharma”.

My review of this film will also not be as objective as I generally am as I was enamored by the sheer goodness of the characters of this film. I was disarmed by the greatness of the story and the monumental achievements of the heroes in the film. Hence it is very difficult for me to comment on the cinematic aspects of the film alone and ignore the heart that makes it what it is in the end. Thus, my documentation of all that I loved about this film will essentially be a hymn for the story, characters, and heroics that make this film what it is.  

Cause over self – The inspiring story of sacrifice: –

The plot of Har Har Mahadev can broadly be described as the story of Shivaji Maharaj’s escape from the fort of Panhala —-which was under siege from the Adil Shahi army led by Siddi Johar —- into the nearby Maratha fort of Vishal Garh. For Shivaji Maharaj to escape, 300 valiant soldiers of his army led by his trusted friend and commander Baji Prabhu Deshpande held off an Adil Shahi army of over 10,000 soldiers at Ghor Khind (later renamed Pawan Khind). These brave hearts ensured that Shivaji Maharaj was not pursued by the enemy and facilitated his escape which proved to be a huge strategic victory for the Marathas even though each and every one of the 300 soldiers was killed in the battle.

Raj Thackeray as the voice of Sahyadri hills narrates the story of Shivaji Maharaj and Baji Prabhu Deshpande

Raj Thackeray, as the voice of the Sahyadri hills, not only narrates the story of this heroic last stand of Baji Prabhu Deshpande and his valiant soldiers but also who he was and how he came to be the hero who saved the architect of Swarajya. It is apparent from his voice modulations and heightened emotions that Thackeray deeply admires the men in question. His feeling for every word and the emotions associated with his narration finds their way to the audiences and is successful in inciting in them the wide-eyed sense of reverence and inspiring patriotism that forms the core of the film.

Sharad Kelkar’s stunning portrayal of Baji Prabhu Deshpande

Sharad Kelkar was appreciated and revered more than Ajay Devgn and Saif Ali khan for his stellar turn as Shivaji Maharaj in Tanhaji (2020). Here, he plays Baji Prabhu Deshpande, a character that is as different from Shivaji as possible and yet feels uncannily real, effective, and almost unrecognizable from the poised and sophisticated man that we know him to be. There is a feeling of brutish strength about his persona and physicality here that not only sells the character but also justifies the heroic last stand that the film culminates in.  

I loved the exchanges between him and Subodh Bhave who plays Shivaji Maharaj. There is such a wonderful chemistry between the two that it immediately elevates the content meant to be put across to a different level. The fiery and the more grounded exchanges between the two where they speak about life, values, Swarajya, and what it means to lead and love are some of the richest conversations between characters that I heard in an Indian film in a long time. The character of Baji Prabhu is also shown sharing unique relationships with his elder brother and son. These relationships also metamorph as the film progresses and has an interesting impact on how Kelkar approaches certain sequences in terms of his essay.

Subodh Bhave’s stellar role as Shivaji Maharaj

Subodh Bhave looks nothing like the image of Shivaji that I have in my mind or like the pictures that I have grown up watching of him. However, he takes to the character in such a way and puts out every emotion with such power and simplicity that I fell in love with his essay within the first few moments of his appearing on screen. The richest scenes of his essay are the ones involving his interactions with Baji Prabhu Deshpande.

Baji Prabhu was someone who hated Shivaji Maharaj to start with and then turned into someone who sacrificed his life for the man. What was it that made him so faithful and made him make the supreme sacrifice for a man who had not yet become the legend that he went on to become in the future? The answer to that question lies in their dialogues where Shivaji Maharaj, through various answers, clarifications, and planning montages lays out his plans for Swarajya, his vision, and his expectation of every man in Swarajya. 

There are many scenes through which we learn about his love and dedication for his family and how he was willing to sacrifice them too at the altar of Swarajya and Swadharma. These dialogues had such an impact on me that I was forced to rewatch certain sequences numerous times and I wouldn’t say that I didn’t get emotional a few times here and there. That is rare in today’s entertainment scape. Bhave and Kelkar deserve the highest praise for making each and every one of these sequences heartwarming, emotional, powerful, poignant, and inspiring with nothing more than their powerful performance.

Stunning symbolism and the sheer goodness propagated through the characters: –

Har Har Mahadev is ripe with over-the-top symbolisms like Shivaji killing Afzal Khan in a way that will remind every Hindu of the annihilation of Hiranyakashap by Vishnu Bhagwan. It is a fact that Afzal Khan was killed by Shivaji Maharaj and how he was killed is elevated here to enhance the symbolism and heroism of the protagonist. I have no problems with that. On the contrary, I loved the correlation between man and God that the director tries to create since many, including me, consider Shivaji Maharaj to be more than a mere mortal.

The film has many more such symbolic representations from our Sanatan history that finds their way through the action of the different characters in key moments. A lot of the teaching of our dharma is spoken as dialogues in key moments that show how dharma and its implementation in real life can make decision-making very easy even when faced with the toughest of dilemmas and indecisions.   

Wonderfully executed action sequences and inspiring background score: –

While a bigger budget would have easily elevated the action sequences of the film to a much greater level, the action of this film never feels poor or ordinary. The lack of finesse and budget shows from time to time but the proceedings and the performances are so inspiring and physical that the loopholes in the execution of the sequences are covered up to a great extent rendering the action thrilling and worthy of the story that the film sets out to tell. 

I absolutely loved the background score of the film. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that some of the sequences where the execution is pedestrian are virtually elevated by the rousing background score. The tracks are so pulsating and fill you up with such energy, awe, and inspiring fervor that the background score turns into a character of its own. The best background scores don’t tell you how you should feel about a certain sequence. The score here does but it remains firmly rooted within the scope of what is put on screen. This quality makes the score a strength for the film and doesn’t let it become just another trope or means of manipulating emotions with music and beats.

Final words: –

Watching Har Har Mahadev was one of the most inspiring and enriching movie experiences for me this year. It has the courage of calling a spade a spade and it does so very bluntly which will not go down well with many in these diplomatic and politically correct times. There is so much goodness on display here that it will make your heart swell with heightened pride, emotion, and absolute submission and reverence for the sacrifices made by men and demigods like Shivaji Maharaj that ensured the survival of Sanatan Dharma and culture to this date. This is an essential watch for the generation that looks westward for spiritual enlightenment and a feeling of pride in life, action, and thought. India is a birthplace of ideas, culture, broadness, equality, and a fiery defense of one’s way of life. We only need to look within for inspiration and nowhere else.   

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