A male having an extra-marital affair is a sign of manhood; a female doing the same is a sign of weakness. The man should be the bread-winner of the family; the woman has no need to work. A man should be able to have sex whenever he wants to regardless of whether his wife is willing. The above chauvinist statements may sound outrageous but sadly - many men all over the world believe them to be true. And it is the above notions that Mahesh Manjrekar attacks with a powerful punch in his "Astitiva". Those of you who thought "Vaastav" was the "second coming" will be surprised to see that the director has a lot more to offer.
"Astitiva" poignantly tells the tale of Aditi (Tabu), the average Indian housewife - cum - mother. Her life revolves around making meals, reading the paper, and trying to while away the day. She does not bat a lid when her husband tells her to whip up a meal for guests who are arriving suddenly. Nor does she care when he fails to show her any respect while in a drunken state in the presence of company. She is satisfied just being. Srikant (Sachin Khedekar), her husband, is your average chauvinist male. The movie opens with the couple having a friend of Srikant's (Ravindra Mankani) over for lunch with his newlywed former divorcee wife (Smita Jaykar). Srikant and Aditi are happy as their son Aniket is engaged to a rather progressive woman (Namrata Shirodkar). Just then a letter arrives for Aditi which Srikant rudely opens before she can barely touch it. We learn that Aditi has been left a fortune by Aditi's former (and now deceased) singing teacher, Malhar (Mohnish Behl). That night, Srikant begins wondering why Malhar had done so, and so he begins to do some research in his anally-kept diaries. He figures out that Aniket was born full-term 8 months after his first sexual encounter with his wife. Srikant confronts Aditi with this information, and Aditi then reveals that Aniket is actually Malhar's son. The story unfolds as both Aditi's son and husband decide to shun her.
Feel free to draw another stick next to Tabu's name on the list of amazing performances. This is her film ALL THE WAY. For once this is not your usual sati-savitri crying act character she portrays. The emotions are subtle yet direct. And the performance is honest. Tabu IS Aditi. All of the crying, screaming Aishwarya's of the world should study this living lesson in acting. This is how it's done, folks. All of the other peformers are first rate as well - from Sachin Khedekar to Namrata Shirodkar to Mohnish Behl, but for some reason one can't take their eyes of Tabu when she's in the frame - such is her commanding presence. And please - don't even suggest that anyone can execute the final scene of the film as well as she did.
Mahesh Manjrekar has come up with a subject that is intelligent. And his direction matches the script scene for scene. Using a style based almost exclusively on flashbacks could have made the film seem disorganized, but nowhere does Manjrekar loose the audience's attention. The camera invites us into and makes us feel as if we are actually observing the private life of this Pune family. Mahesh Manjrekar also does not dwell too much on any one issue but gives the film a decent pace that builds to its ultimate climax.
My hope is that people all over the world should see this film and learn from it. This is the kind of film that forces us to look into our own relationships with the opposite sex - be it our wife, our girlfriend, our sister - or just a friend. Are we not guilty of the same chauvinist behavior somewhere in our life? Is it justified? Manjrekar emphatically says "no, it is not!". Human beings are human beings. They all have the same needs and desires and they all deserve the right for these desires to be met. And the end of this film suggests that many times we must look out for ourselves; for unfortunately - no one else can do this better.
Watch this film. At the very least - it will make you think.