Firebrand review: Usha Jadhav, Girish Kulkarni shine in Netflix’s first Marathi film
Netflix’s first Marathi original, Firebrand, has a socially relevant issue at heart and gains from solid performances all around.
Director: Aruna Raje
Cast: Usha Jadhav, Sachin Khedekar, Girish Kulkarni, Rajeshwari Sachdev
After the restrained Soni, Netflix has come up with an Indian original where the focus is firmly on women and their place in the Indian society. Firebrand, Netflix’s first Marathi original, is about a rape survivor who has made it her life’s work to help other women. Priyanka Chopra’s Pebble Pictures has produced the film. National Award-winner Usha Jadhav plays Sunanda, a lawyer fighting for other women facing injustice and violence. Her husband Madhav is played by Girish Kulkarni, a man who is ready to give space and love that his wife – suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – needs.
Sunanda is a rape survivor and the film’s eponymous firebrand – she never loses a case and is single-minded in pursuance of justice for women. However, it is her quest for justice that makes her lose once.
Directed by Aruna Raje, the film that also stars Rajeshwari Sachdev, Puja Agarwal and Sachin Khedekar, has a strong, socially relevant issue at heart and solid performances all around.
The film shows us the inner life of women and how sexual assault and domestic violence have nothing to do with economic situation or demographic. From a woman married to an auto driver to the wife of an industrialist, Sunanda takes on cases of women who are all united by the cruelty they face at hands of their husband. However, one rare case takes her inside a home where husband is the real victim, making Sunanda take some tough decisions.
Firebrand is an emotionally draining experience - even as the protagonist fights cases in the family court, she returns home everyday to fight a different battle. She lives with an understanding, caring husband with whom she wants to have sex, but cannot because of the trauma she faced as a child. In their personal time, the duo pay visits a psychologist in an effort to overcome Sunanda’s fear of physical touch.
If I applaud Sunanda’s character for being realistic as well as heroic, I also cherish Madhav’s approach to life. His open-mindededness and dedicated, selfless love is remarkable.
While Firebrand boasts of powerful performances, it is the supporting cast that at times brings in the incongruous hint of melodrama to an otherwise smooth film. Another wrong note in the film is when Sunanda is at her psychologist’s clinic and is asked to vent out her anger at a stuff toy. The sudden transition of a calm and composed lawyer to an emotionally vulnerable rape victim is unrealistic and even Usha fails to make it believable. However, none of these undermine the importance of the film’s subject and storyline.