The arrival of a radio in a village in a Konkan village is treated with the wonderment it deserves in Sagar Vanjari’s Redu. The Marathi-language movie is set during a time when people owned little and consumer goods had emotional value. Let 1972, then, by marked as the year that Tatu discovered that the meaning of life lay in a battery-operated box filled with music and the news.

A daily wage labourer with a wife and a daughter, Tatu (Shashank Shende) has only drudgery to look forward to. When his wife’s sister drops in from Mumbai and a radio is part of the luggage, Tatu finally permits a grin to replace his usual surliness. He is now the proud owner of a radio, and there is a discernible shift in his status in the village.

The radio gets stolen, of course – broad hints have already been dropped in early scenes – forcing Tatu and his wife Chhaya (Chhaya Kadam) to hunt down the thief who has snatched away their sole source of their happiness. Another act of appropriation is involved in the obvious nod to Santosh Sivan’s children’s film Halo (1996), about a young girl and her stray dog that goes missing.

A simple idea gets the simplistic treatment in Vanjari’s directorial debut. The story is too skimpy to merit a 111-minute movie, and Vanjari and his team of writers try to layer the screenplay by focusing on the locations and examining the relationships between the characters. The rural landscape is lensed to bring out its rich red earth and emerald beauty, and the lilt of the local Konkani-inflected Marathi produces some pungent dialogue.

The experience that Shashank Shende and Chhaya Kadam bring to their roles elevates this rural fairy tale above its shortcomings. The best-developed relationship is between Tatu and Chhaya, who have a nice mutual rhythm that speaks of years of togetherness. He growls at her, she listen quietly, and then gives it right back.

Redu (2018).