Happy Journey is a Marathi masterpiece, released in 2014 under the banner of Everest Entertainment, produced by Sanjay Chhabria and directed by Sachin Kundalkar that revolves around the struggling life of a lower financial class Marathi family. The story is about a responsible brother Niranjan acted by Atul Kulkarni – the Marathi super star of Bollywood, who is forced to abandon his family in his tender teenage to earn the basic needs. Distressed and Furious, he travels to Dubai looking for a business opportunity to make the ends meet. Burning midnight’s oil and passing severe tests of Fate he spends all of his ripe young age in earning bread and butter for the family. Left behind are his poor and innocent parents and a younger sister Janaki played by Priya Bapat who is sick and eventually gets bedridden with an incurable cancer. Janaki’s illness spreads and Time calls for her. She passes away and Niranjan comes back only to find that there is nothing else left for him. After spending two decades of making a living in the helter-skelter of Dubai and with a foggy memory of early life he finds no common moments with his family to be cherished and awkwardly decides to go back as soon as possible.
The story turns upside down with a surprise twist when Niranjan is shocked to find Janaki sleeping in the back seat of her homely ambulance that carried her to and fro during the hospital visits, after the final rites. This moment changes everything in his life and opens an unexpected and uncharted dimension. The movie teaches that Death could be funny and one should not be scared of it. It is just a continuation of Life in another way. It could be transformed to a happy and remorseless experience only if accepted fully and lived completely to the last minute. Death appears to be ghostly only because we live our life like Ghosts with no touch of Life and Happiness. It takes a while before Janaki convinces Niranjan out of his fear and urges him to start living without any further delay. She literally takes him for ride in that transformed ambulance and starts a Happy Journey.
A lot of gems are scattered in the movie that point towards the higher meaning of Life. There is much more to it than just getting up in the morning, earning and sleeping only to start again the next day. Suddenly something happens and we are at a loss because we were not prepared for it. Life goes on and we forget to live and breathe only to survive. Niranjan gets a second chance. Second chances are very rare. Something lost is lost forever. Upon finally realizing the importance of this golden chance, he then leaves no stone unturned in fulfilling all the remaining wishes of his charming younger sister who mentors his way across life and they spend a merry time together. Brother and Sister can share a unique bond of true friendly love that can surpass all the obstacles. We often forget the importance of all the wonderful gifts that we have received and take them for granted only to realize when they are gone. Janaki stops in the middle of her Journey after Life only to complete the unfulfilled threads. All the life that they had lost in that 20 years of physical distance comes to fulfillment and leaves them happy, contented and without any regrets.
Life is an impermanent journey where we all are fellow travelers. Nothing is forever as Janaki tells her brother and hints that she need to go after her work here is done. We often repeat the same mistake of holding on to people and things for our happiness. Happiness is about living fully and not looking for it outside. She also supports him in abducting his childhood love Alice (Pallavi Subhash) consentingly from the clutches of her Criminal parents and 300 pounds bodyguard Chumbak gifting her the Freedom she had desired. Having fulfilled her purpose now Janaki leaves Niranjan and Alice for each other never to return. Niranjan, a transformed person now, bids her farewell with a heavy heart and learns to welcome everything that life gives and moves on with the memories of her sweet angelic sister.
The movie perfectly portrays complex human emotions in a simple heart-touching way with the message that true love has the power to transform. Seemingly huge obstacles automatically give away for determined and focused travelers is another thing to be learned from this must watch family drama. Also starring Siddhartha Menon, Shivkumar Subramaniam and Chitra Palekar, the film is yet another milestone of this Golden period of Marathi Cinema.