A technological love story

Lathe Joshi
is a relationship drama but not just the human kind. It explores a rare relationship — between men and their machines. Each member in the Joshi family is in a committed relationship with their machines, whether at the workshop, kitchen or the living room. At the centre is Vijay “Lathe” Joshi (Chittaranjan Giri), a lathe machine operator who finds himself without a job when the workshop he is employed in shuts down. The lathe machine is not just an inanimate object for him; it’s the source of his artistry, his friend and ally. It’s his identity; he is called by its name.

Then there is Vijay’s wife (Ashwini Giri) whose food delivery business gets a boost once she invests in a food processor. Their son (Om Bhutkar) is interested in computer assembling and repair. Last but certainly not the least is the old grandmother (Seva Chauhan) for whom the TV, its remote and a religious chant machine hold tremendous value. Only, unlike Lathe Joshi’s deep passion, the rest of family’s equation with technology feels more utilitarian.

Almost every visual, every shot and scene of the film is a quiet illumination of these relationship dynamics. From an alarm clock to motherboard to chopsticks to cycle and a car to the life support machine of Joshi’s old and ailing boss — each machine is a character, framed with as much significance and centrality as the human faces.

The film also captures the irony of the times when it’s not just other human beings that you have to compete with, but also one needs to keep in step with technology. The motto is simple: upgrade or be left behind. So, while Lathe Joshi is stuck in obsolescence his son and wife stay relevant by adapting to the new tools of the trade.

Director Mangesh Joshi has tremendously effective actors to add more heft to the proceedings. Chittaranjan Giri is fabulously melancholic, hurt yet obstinate in the face of his own redundancy and his machine turned to scrap. A total contrast to his wife played by Ashwini Giri, who is ready to take on the new — be it a hairstyle or a catering order. Bhutkar as the young son is the gateway to modernity and progress, one who takes the family to a Chinese restaurant and helps them figure the chopsticks.

At times it feels that the “relevance” debate informs the frames too much, with every scene, detail and dialogue pinned on it. There’s even a scene where machine-made tea is run down as against man-made. But it doesn’t grate or feel jarring. In fact it’s quite moving, perhaps because it is presented with tremendous gentleness, gentility and humour by the director. The film is about worlds turning upside down but nothing quite ruffles the family schema. Lathe Joshi might be unable to tell the family that he has no job to go to every morning but the news is taken in the stride when it eventually reaches them through the grapevine. And then, the business of life carries on — with newer machines for company.

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