Mumbai Dabbawallas' saga premieres on the silver screen

Mumbai, Jan 25 (IANS) The saga of the world famous Mumbai dabbawallas Friday hit the silver screens in Maharashtra as a full-length Marathi feature film "Mumbaicha Dabbewala".

Nearly 500 dabbawallas took time off to gather in Pune where the movie opened on four Fame multiplex screens and simultaneously in cinemas in Sangli, Satara and Sholapur. It is slated to hit Mumbai screens early February.

"We are absolutely delighted by the movie, the story and the way it has effectively portrayed our daily lives," said Raghunath Medge, the 52-year-old leader of the 5,000 Mumbai dabbawallahs.

"Though the masses have been utilizing our services for nearly seven decades, few know of the efforts we put in our unique work. We hope the movie will help improve the lot of my people and enhance our business prospects in this highly competitive era," Medge told IANS.

Director Manohar Sarvankar emphasized that the movie is not a documentary on the lives of the dabbawallas.

"It is actually a fictional story penned by Pratap Gangawane in which real life incidents of the dabbawallas are weaved in," Sarvankar told IANS as he prepared to leave for the premiere.

The film portrays reigning Marathi superstar Bharat Jadhav in the lead role of a Mumbai dabbawalla who falls in love with village belle Deepali Sayed. Fed up with her father who is an alcoholic painter, Deepali comes to Mumbai to sell lottery tickets and meets Bharat.

"We like each other very much. Though he earns around Rs.6,000 like the real life dabbawallas, he is moved by my plight and even shares his meals with me. Then love blossoms between us," Deepali told IANS.

Marathi actress Smita Gondhkar plays the other prominent female role. Medge and 500 of his staff also make a 'debut' essaying their real life role in the movie.

Some important and well-known aspects of the dabbawallas' life are portrayed, like dabbawallas attending Prince Charles's wedding with Camilla Parker-Bowles in London in April 2005.

Sarvankar said he researched the life of the dabbawallas for 18 months before finalizing a script that synthesized fantasy with real life.

"We travelled with the dabbawallas in crowded Mumbai trains for months together, watched them in operation, noted public reactions, the intricacies of their time-tested system of delivery, how they picked up and delivered on-the-dot, without any error," Sarvankar said.

The shooting for the big budget movie costing Rs.7.50 million started a year ago, but was actually completed in 25 days of filming on locales. No artificial sets were involved. Mukund Vitkar has produced the movie on behalf of Shree Venkatesh Films, Mumbai.

Explaining the long shooting period for the 160 minute-long film, Sarvankar said that it was shot only on Sundays and holidays to ensure dabbawallas' duties towards their 200,000 customers were not disturbed.

When asked why the movie on Mumbai dabbawallas was premiered in Pune, Medge said that 90 percent of his people hail from Pune and surrounding areas. Plus, there was a greater scope for a Marathi movie in that area.

Sarvankar said that after seeing the public response, he would take a decision to either dub or sub-title the movie in different languages, including English for a wider reach.

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