Friday, January 27, 2006

Anveshane (1983)

Anveshane (1983)
Featuring : Smita Patil, Anant Nag, Girish Karnad, Sunder Raj, Balakrishna, Ramesh Bhat and others.

Directed by: T S Nagabharana

“yenanna kandaru hedari hedari saayo bhaaratada madhyama varga…” is an expression that captures the mood and theme of this T S Nagabharana feature. Set in the mid 1980s where bell bottom trousers and intimidating sideburns entered India, “Anveshane” unfolds an interesting story which is definitely beyond your 'dime a dozen' eye-candy fare.

Shaam (Anant) and Revati (Smita) live in a ‘vothaara’ with a host of other families and two adorable little girls. For those who do not know, a ‘vothara’ is a set of houses that are usually owned by one person and inhabited by many families. He works for a travel agency while she is a school teacher. Both are working hard to make ends meet in a social structure that has been making it increasingly difficult for the middle class. There is a lot of affection and love in this family that lives under the prying nose of old, perverted and goofy men who are married to nosy, loud and annoying women. Day in and day out the couple follows a standard routine which involves everyday chores of getting the kids ready for school, making breakfast and heading off to work. The house is locked all day until they all return in the evening.

Ajja (Balakrishna) is the inquisitive old man who has nothing else to do all day except suspect every single event that occurs around him. The movie picks up pace very quickly after a rather dull initial few minutes (this also includes a song…the only one as I saw it in the entire movie) when ajja starts hearing radio sounds from the otherwise empty and locked house. This becomes a regular affair before the couple realizes something is amiss. They start noticing the fact that someone visits their home when they are not around.

When the couple returns one evening they are shocked out of their living minds when they find a corpse right in the middle of their living room. Shekhar (Sunder Raj playing the super-still dead body itself is worth the money!) is the victim who seems to have been killed by an unknown hand. Fear and tension strikes the innocent couple whose main problem up until now was to get their daughters to wear shoes for school! They spend an entire night wondering what to do with their unwelcome guest that includes hiding him under their own bed and getting rid of his wallet. Their attempts at getting rid of the corpse go futile thanks to drunks and policemen who strategically appear out of nowhere. Somehow they manage to put the corpse in one of the rooms (seemed like they had the biggest accommodation in that pool of houses since they had so many rooms!) and the quest (Anveshane) about why he died in their house begins.

Characters and stories start emerging in the shape of a limping Dharwad-chap Rotti (Girish Karnad) who visits them one day looking for Shekhar. Shaam starts tracing Rotti and manages to end up in a rather amusing face-off with him one final day. The story unfolds as we start picking up the chips of the story from Rotti’s eyes. His connection with Shekhar emerges and all the pieces of this puzzle seem to fall into place. We also get a brief look at a very young and a very slim Ramesh Bhat in the process!

The second portion of the movie catches momentum when Rotti arrives at Shaam’s place to offer help in disposing the body away. As the entire neighborhood watches these bizarre happenings around them, we start hoping that they get rid of the now stinking corpse already! Rotti takes off to an unknown destination with a box filled with Mr.Shekhar while Shaam and his family seem to find their way to safety. You will have to watch the movie yourself to see the final few minutes since me sharing more than this would be unfair to this well crafted tale. One of the mistakes people make while reviewing such thrillers is giving away too much. I hope I have not gone down the same path.

Smita Patil. Just the mention of that name sends us back to all the features this beautiful artiste was a part of. One of the most celebrated personalities in Bollywood is shown as a meek, terrified, vulnerable and naïve housewife who is trying to maintain her state of mind in the midst of all this chaos. What amazed me is how we forget that she is Smita Patil once we start getting involved in the story! She blends into the skin of the middle-class working woman showcasing the professional that she was. It gives me great pleasure in knowing that this was her first Kannada movie since she could not have made a more perfect choice. Today’s so called ‘Bollywood Bedagis’ who put on so many tantrums for one badly lip-synched appearance and who refuse to appear unless they are given apt ‘screen time’ can take a lesson or two from Smitaji. Shame on them for giving a bad name to the world of cinema when personalities like Smita had appeared in such deglamorised and authentic roles. If history repeats itself then I am fondly waiting for this trend to resurface.

Anant Nag (who seemed to have trouble maintaining his stubble during scene continuity) is at his usual best. Despite the fact that he is cast opposite an established name, he pulls off a very convincing role as the desperate-for-answers Shaam. Girish Karnad (also very young) is another treat to watch as the frustrated and hopeless father who is fighting for his daughter’s sake. It had been a very long time since I had seen a Karnad in such a wonderful role. Sunder Raj once again proves why he is still in the business! His confident performance against such professionals only goes to show what a find he has been for Kannada cinema. If we have not used him to his maximum potential then truly, we are the real losers. I have always enjoyed his performances and this was easily one of his best. Other seasoned players like Balakrishna lend apt support to the mysterious goings on.

Technically the movie can be called low-budget. But with a good script and powerful performances, it does not cross your mind as the pacy narrative keeps your attention. Nagabharana has done a good job at maintaining the realistic feel of the characters and their surroundings. The climax seemed a little rushed since there were still a few questions left unanswered from my point of view. Editing is fine although the music seems to be overpowering the impact of the scene some of the times. Even so, it keeps you engrossed and that is what counts in such movies. Even so, it keeps you engrossed and that is what counts in such movies. Background is fair and adds the necessary chills to scenes at times.

One more good cinema. One more interesting theme.

“yenanna kandaru hedari hedari saayo bhaaratada madhyama varga…” is aptly justified as Nagabharana succeeds in showcasing the constant fear and uncertainty the middle class lives in. How those fears extend to a level that makes them do unthinkable deeds is what the movie very effectively portrays. How those fears are successfully exploited by desperate minds is well captured. Common people in uncommon circumstances is what "Anveshane" is all about.

If you are a fan of creative and well crafted cinema, then “Anveshane” is definitely not to be missed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Shaapa (2000)

Featuring: Ramesh, Anu Prabhakar, B C Patil, Ashwath, Avinash and others.
Directed by: Ashok Patil

“Spare the rod and spoil the child” goes the popular saying about making sure children are dealt with an iron hand so that they become responsible and ethical individuals when they grow up. But parents seem to redefine the meaning of that saying on various conditions. When they start blaming the children and ill treating them physically and emotionally for everything that has gone wrong in their lives, then the saying no longer has any relevance. It has become abuse.

Shekhar (Ramesh) is a victim of such an abuse from his atrocious father (Jai Jagadish). Shekhar loses his birth-mother when he is born and as is the sickening tradition the child has to bear the brunt of it. His father destroys Shekhar’s morale by becoming a looming negative influence in his life. Unfortunately for Shekhar, the love he finds in his stepmother (for once portrayed as a loving and caring person unlike the usual cliché) soon leaves him as well. For everything that goes wrong with Shekhar’s father, Shekhar is blamed for the same.

Years roll by. Shekhar’s father dies. But does the abuse and mental torture that he subjected a helpless Shekhar to die with him? No it does not. In fact it starts haunting Shekhar everywhere he goes. He even tries getting help from a psychiatrist (Avinash in a small but interesting role) who reassures him that his belief of ‘everything-I-touch-will-be-mud’ sort of anti-Midas concept is wrong. Shekhar believes he has a curse on him and the story of how that ‘curse’ influences Shekhar is the core of the movie.

Shekhar is hungry for love. True and genuine motherly love. A love he was depraved of in his childhood. A love that he has never really known. His sister (yes he has one) makes a brief appearance as a widow wondering if she should get remarried but then she is never mentioned again. This is one thing I hate about movies. When vital family members of the protagonist are introduced then please take care of their ‘whatever-happened’ factor. Helps keep the realistic feel of the script and does not look forced.

Just when we feel that Mr.’Love-is-not-in-my-stars’ Shekhar is a total loser, he finds Kaveri (Anu Prabhakar). She is a doctor who also has a strong moral center. She helps out the needy and is involved in many social activities. It is love at first sight for Shekhar babu considering he needs someone he can depend on to get rid of the negative shadow his father has cast on his conscience. Kaveri and Shekhar hit it off almost immediately. The chemistry between them becomes friendship and translates into love. Of course, as is the age old tradition of commercial cinema, neither of them is able to proclaim the same. Another cliché I never understood. He is a coffee powder businessman and she is a trained doctor. Both professions require a lot of ‘mind-reading’ for any kind of success yet it does not extend to love!

One thing leads to another and they get separated from each other. While Shekhar leads a life wondering where she vanished (makes one wonder how neither of them had heard of telephones, letters, addresses, e-mails etc) she returns back after four years. He runs into her again, thanks to a familiar flute note that she had taught him, and old sparks rekindle. He realizes she is still unmarried and very creatively proposes his love to her. Ms.’Oh-you-are-late’ Kaveri confesses that she too had similar emotions for him but now….any guesses? Yes! Wow…you people are very good. Now..she is engaged to Ravi.

Enter Ravi (Mr.B C Patil) as a ‘need-to-use-Tamil-in-my-dialogs’ Madras returned super chap. Initially he seems nice and tidy but once he and Kaveri tie the knot ( Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge ‘pleasing-the-bride’s-dad’ track here) we realize he is a super jerk. A money hungry engineer who is out to spin some big ones with his doctor wife, Ravi starts showing his black and dark black sides. Shekhar’s inner demons keep calling out to him in the form of his father. He is tempted many times to get Kaveri back at all cost but the good side inside him keeps stopping him from doing so.

This is the one aspect I liked about the movie. The Karnataka-Tamil Nadu Kaveri river dispute has been used as a metaphor in Shekhar’s life. He starts connecting what he is seeing in the news about that dispute to the war that is on in his mind. ‘naavu kaaveriyanna biDodilla” reads grafitti on the walls of the city while Shekhar is thinking the exact same thing. The evil within Shekhar continues to grow until he explodes.

What decisions he makes and how they become consequences is what the remaining part of the story revolves around. Maintaining my traditional not giving away all the scenes I have kept the good parts for you to watch.

Ramesh is brilliant as a man who is struggling with his inner evil. There are scenes where he murmurs during conversations with a lot of realistic effect. He emotes at the right times and holds the story well together. He never raises his voice once and keeps the character totally focused and in a sober tone. Anu has done a commendable job as the yearning doctor who regrets not taking more initiative with Shekhar. One of the best lines she had in the movie was her last one. She could not have meant it more and for the ones who know what it should sound like…it remains long after the movie is over. B C Patil is his usual arrogant self. I have always considered him an average actor with a lack of emotional quotient and he proves me right again. Ashwath, Avinash and other seasoned players lend apt support in their peaking scenes.

Music is good to the ears with the pick being ‘Manase Manase…’ Some songs could easily have been edited since they do not add any power or essence to the story. The first time director Ashok Patil has tried to potray this movie as a ‘musical’ but I am not so sure. Music is relevant to the story but only in a small amount. The real core is the look he takes into the human psyche and how it behaves. Technically the movie is well shot with a range of colors in the scenic Madikeri area. Sunset and sunrise seems to be a vital part of the story to set the mood.

On the whole ‘Shaapa’ succeeds in holding the audience’s attention till the very end. The suspense and underplayed melodrama is in right amounts to make it look more real. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in such entertainers.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gowri Ganesha (1991)

Gowri Ganesha Featuring : Anant Nag, Shruti, Vinaya Prasad, Chandru (both Sweet and Sour / Chief Minister!), Ramesh Bhatt and others.
Directed by: Phani Ramachandra (Hosahalli)

Phani Ramachandra became big in Karnataka with his socially relevant/set comic relief features in the 90s. Anant Nag has always been a prominent actor to feature in most of Phani Ramachandra’s outings with humor. ‘Gowri Ganesha’ is one such venture.

The initial plot is as old as the hills. An ‘age bar’ unemployed middle aged man named Lambodar (Anant Nag) cons people day in and day out to make a living. This includes everything from getting away with not paying monthly rents for the hole-in-the-wall he lives in, coning unsuspecting grocery store owners and leeching off merchandise, eavesdropping on people and making off with expensive equipment etc. The only asset (based on the events mentioned above) he really has is his ability to convincingly pull off these bluffs. One of his most popular ones apparently is checking into hospitals with a fake ailment and leeching off their food and roofing facilities (how he managed this even I could not comprehend!).

While you patiently watch a talented and gifted actor like Nag effortlessly go through this merry-go-around, you wait for the moment the magic of Phani Ramachandra’s direction and the ‘twist’ takes place. There comes a moment when you are convinced there is nothing much left to this already juiced out sugarcane...but boy are you in for a surprise!

Towards intermission the plot picks up pace. A pace so well weaved with the right ounces of humor and intelligent writing that it leaves you absolutely entertained. During one of his usual ‘medical facility’ outings, Lambodar chances upon the dead body of Gowri (Shruti) who fails to make past a by-pass. Hoping to continue his leeching techniques at the poor dead girl’s expense, Lambodar manages to bag her belongings. One of her prized articles happens to be a diary that narrates Gowri’s life in her own words.

A motherless child with an abusive stepmother, Gowri has had to lead a pretty torturous life. The death of her doting father adds to her woes as her shameless stepmother tries to prostitute Gowri. She flees home and finds comfort in a friend’s shelter.

The story then starts using Goddess Gowri and her son Lord Ganesha as a metaphor to the characters in the movie. This is the part where the very smartly written screenplay kicks in. When three men with emotional and physical illusions enter and exit Gowri’s life without so much as touching her, you realize you are watching a good Kannada movie. Each of them ends up becoming an integral part of the plot in the post intermission sections. Anand Rao(Sweet and Sour Chandru), Madhusudhan Rao (Ramesh Bhatt) and Chandramouli (I am not sure what the actor’s name was) and his parents become very important to Lambodar’s little scheme.

I always, if you have been following my reviews so far, try to leave much of the review to the audience’s guess. This is just an attempt to inspire (or in some cases warn!) them to make a wise choice about the movie being reviewed. Hence, I am going to do the same here as well. What you have read so far is what you need to know…what you did not is what you have to see for yourself.

Performances wise Anant Nag steals the show hands down. I never cease to be amazed by this mountain of an actor. Where does he find that vein which touches all of us is what his genius is made of. His sense of comedy, perfect timing, dialogue delivery and the whole package is enough reason to watch the movie. Master Anand is the real surprise packet in the post intermission section of the movie. Do not miss his dead on impersonation of Dr.Rajkumar, Vishuvardhan and Ambarish! He ends up managing the whole show at times on his own despite the presence of a giant like Anant. Shruti plays her role very confidently despite being rather young and ‘still-working-on-my-emotions’ actress during this movie. The supporting cast strikes a perfect balance to what Anant does. All this adds up into one super entertainer with a very different and amazingly well directed script.

A friend once told me that the reason why Kannada movies suffer sometimes is not because of the screenplay/script, but because of the treatment they get from the director. This movie is one case where Phani Ramachandra does an absolutely amazing job at letting Anant display his histrionics with nothing more than a blink and a smile.

Nothing to write home about the technical aspect. A hand held (for the most part) camera with a couple of burning hot lights do the job. Music is pleasing and falls into the ‘must-see-movie-to-understand-and-appreciate-better’ genre.

All said and one, ‘Gowri Ganesha’ is one of the few movies in Kannada that reassures our faith in good and clean cinema.

ShaKri rates this movie 4 out of 5

Friday, January 20, 2006

Jogi (2005)

Jogi (2005)
Featuring: Arundati Nag, Shivraj Kumar, Jennifer Kotwal and others
Directed by: Prem

One of the most successfully running movies of 2005 in Karnataka – Jogi. Prem has had a pretty good commercial success so far with his previous outings. Invariably his themes revolve around parental love and the need to appreciate that emotion in today’s world. Personally, I was not at all impressed with ‘Excuse Me’ (a review I had posted earlier) due to various factors but let us look at Jogi now.

First things first. The unusual hairdo given to Shivraj is the first thing that catches your eye. He has gone ahead and experimented with at least this aspect which is something Kannada ‘superstars’ are not known to do. Then we have a solid soundtrack. All the songs have become chartbusters with Gurukiran scoring a big one with this movie. Technically well shot and decently presented package is what ‘Jogi’ comes across as.

Dissecting a movie like ‘Jogi’ is easy. It is definitely a commercially designed family entertainer (although parental guidance is strictly advised) with loads of well shot sequences, apt dosage of emotional bliss, soundtracks shot exclusively in bright locations to please the eye and loads of ‘Manmohan Desai-style’ clichés. But is this necessarily a bad thing? Not really when you have powerhouse performers in Arundati Nag and Shivraj Kumar.

Madesha (Shivraj Kumar) lives in his own little world somewhere in the foothills of Male Mahadeshwara mountains in a nondescript village called Singanalloor with a doting mother Bhagyamma (Arundati Nag) and a sick father (Ramesh Bhat in a wasted role). A family that is poor to the world’s eye but is wealthy in never ending love and mutual affection. They have no money but family is their wealth. Madesha and his mother share a very special bond. Being the only child there is a lot of pampering in place. Dance forms are one of the many ways the family members communicate and entertain each other. Simple people with a heart of gold.

First strike. The father passes away. A heartbroken Madesha has found grief for the first time and has a hard time getting a grip with it. He realizes he is the ‘man of the house’ now and needs more money to support the mother. In an attempt to follow his rather ‘colorful’ Bangalore-based friend, he decides to visit Big Bad Bangalore after all. As happens in most movies, a simpleton from the village that he is, Madesha is cheated and left on the roads. A kind gentleman offers him a simple tea-supplier’s job which he gets pretty good at.

Second strike. An unplanned brawl with a nameless ruffian (rowdy alias underworld goon) lands Madesha (now popular as Jogi due to his rather bizarre appearance) ends up in him chasing the foul mouthed goon down the narrow streets of Bangalore and chopping him up left ,right and center. The next thing you know the obvious has happened – the innocent village bumpkin Madesha has automatically entered the ‘field’ of rowdyism. What is very neat about this arrangement though, is that he never really does become a ‘rowdy’.

Third strike. A lost and panicky Bhagyamma reaches a rainy and chaotic Bangalore looking for her son! Thanks to Madesha she has had no clue where he is and what he does for a living. So while Jogi is busy keeping rowdys who get into jail just to watch him ‘perform’ entertained, Mother Jogi is wandering the streets with a rather young looking Jogi’s photograph (looked more like something shot at a police station). With much of ‘this and that’ she runs into Ms.’My-Kannada-is-out-of-sync-in-an-obvious-way’ Jennifer Kotwal. A journalist wannabe busy shooting rather bizarre ‘controversies’. She manages to convince Mother J to stay with her while she helps bag Madesha.

These are the basic strikes that turn and twist the movie around a bit. Goons, cheats, mafia, police, politicians, commoners, micro-mini clad ‘college goers’ et al…everyone seems to make a rather insignificant appearance in the movie. However, the movie really is about Madesha and Bhagyamma. The tagline of the movie ‘A feel that never ends…’ is the full stop if this movie was a sentence. Hence, as always, I leave the full stop for you to appreciate or flame.

Performances wise Arundati Nag once again proves that people connected with theater cannot go wrong. She is the nucleus in the script and manages to hold the sometimes out-of-place goings on in one rhythm. Her portrayal of the innocent and motherly Bhagyamma is sure to win her a few awards in the supporting actress category. Shivraj Kumar has reached a point in his career when one need not scrutinize his acting prowess which has been proved many times. He pulls off this rather unique rowdy’s role with finesse. Although I thought he underplayed many scenes unconvincingly. His facial expressions could have added more power into some of the crucial scenes. But then, maybe that was intentional…I cant say. Jennifer is.. well.. nothing more than a very confident dancer. Her emotions are usually with a wide open mouth and she has a terrible time syncing the background dialog with what she is saying. No relation in some places. One area that clearly needed a lot of work. With her experience on the small screen being pretty way back, she pulls off a decent one anyway. Her costume designer was probably sleeping so let us leave it at that.

Prem tries to do an Upendra-style by bringing different scenes together towards the end. You know…the ones where people go…”Ah! That makes sense now!” and he actually does a pretty good job at that. Although, personally I have always admired Upendra’s direction so I am not at all convinced Prem has that kind of a genius in him…yet.

Technically well shot with a good background score. Editing could have been more precise since it’s a commercially appealing movie. The distant wide angle shots of Singanalloor are beautifully co-ordinated and deserves a thumbs up.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rama Shama Bhama (2005)

Featuring: Ramesh Aravind, Kamal Hassan, Shruti, Daisy Bopanna, Urvashi and Dattatreya. Directed by: Ramesh Aravind

Kannada movies have had to suffer major stereotypical movie casting in the past couple of decades as far as comedy and family entertainment is concerned. A popular genre has been the rowdy movies (popularly known as “machchu movies”) which are a dime a dozen and are invariably about love, crime, self realization, mindless bloodshed and loads of trash talk. Only certain members of such casting are “responsible” to provide comic relief in scenes that never gel well with the screenplay of the movie. While this appeals to a large section of the masses, there is a debate about such cinema among people who have grown up appreciating wholesome family entertainers. Movies that may not necessarily convey a life altering message but definitely give us much needed clean and genuine laughter.

While on a 2 week flash trip to Bengalooru I finally saw a Kannada movie in a theater after almost 15 years (a fact I am not proud of) and what a comeback I made! People kept mentioning movies like ‘Amritadhaare’ and ‘Jogi’ as popular titles but I somehow wanted to see the much adored Ramesh in his directorial debut. What could be more endearing than a Kannada speaking Kamal as the powerhouse backup of the movie? This sounded too tempting to miss. After all, it might be another 20 years before Kamal decides to feature in another Kannada movie.

Apart from learning that Kannada movies were tax free (though not convincingly rats free based on the condition of the theater I was in) I was pleasantly surprised to see a house full crowd to watch the movie which was already in the cinemas for a few weeks. I had heard so many people whine till they went blue in the face about Kannada movies not getting audience that I was truly proud that I was helping in the cause.

Rama Shama Bhama, as might have been obvious already, corresponds to three characters in the movie essayed by Ramesh, Kamal and Urvashi respectively. Rama is a cartoonist who is happily married with an innocent wife Bhama (Urvashi’s Malayalam accent seems a little annoying at first but then it grows on you) and two kids. Contrary to their names Rama, though initially seeming to be a frustrated husband, is actually much more than just that! A flirt by nature, Rama befriends Priya (Daisy Bopanna) by lying to her about his marital status and manages to convince her that they have a future together. To celebrate this they chart out a pleasure trip to Goa. While Mrs.My-Husband-Personifies-His-Name is unaware of her beloved’s extra curricular activities, Rama is unaware of the danger that awaits him at the airport.

Sham Sajjan (Kamal Hassan) is a humble and down to earth gynecologist and an old time friend of Rama. As luck would have it, Rama and Shama bump into each other at the airport (much to Rama’s agony) and end up in Goa together. While Shama takes his time to figure out what exactly the deal with Rama and Priya is, the sequences that add up to that moment are absolutely hilarious. Laugh-a-minute comedy follows as Sham’s wife Shanti (an innocent village belle portrayed with finesse by Shruti) and a camcorder-crazy son arrive in Goa. What follows next is not something one should write about (and I am not saying this to reduce the length of this review). The movie strikes a strong resemblance to a lot of comically designed tales of onscreen infidelity. Nothing new as far as the generic content is concerned. What does add all the magic is the treatment of the subject. This includes neat editing work; pleasant music and background score (courtesy Guru Kiran); tidy cinematography and special effects (yes!) and some brilliant onscreen performances.

Kamal Hassan steals the show with his Hubli/Dharwad accent and my personal favorite “Mundha?” liners. His depiction of the always-up-for-a-just-cause attitude works well as he tries to defend and help his poor friend. During the post-intermission portions he switches sides and ends up helping Bhama who has by now gone from a naïve wife to a determined woman set out to win her husband back. Ramesh is at his usual best with his perfectly timed histrionics playing the frustrated husband looking for some added spice in life. As I mentioned earlier, but for the strong and sometimes out of place Malayalam accent, Urvashi pulls off a quick one with her portrayal of the patient and timid housewife. Daisy Bopanna is the real center of all the action (literally at times!) with her killer looks and confident performance. I had never heard of her before this movie but now I will never forget her even if this was her last movie. Shruti and Dattatreya lend apt support with their professional expertise being in the field for so long.

All said and done – RSB (Rama Shama Bhama) works big time. Not just because it is one of the few genuinely funny movies I have seen in Kannada after a long time, but also because it brings together a good combination of talents from neighboring states. Finally here is a movie this festive season that can be watched with all members of the family irrespective of age.

Such a rare celestial intersection should definitely not be missed.

ShaKri rates this movie 4 out of 5.

Hendati Endare Heegerabeku (2001)

Featuring: Kashinath and others.
Directed by : Kashinath

When I first saw “Awale Nanna Hendati” I became an instant fan of Kashinath. His Amol Palekar-like portrayal of the common man and his problems was just very appealing. We needed one such character in our Kannada movie industry along with all the other giants who refuse to quit. While that movie dealt with an important and burning issue of dowry harassment (both ways) Kashinath instantly became a household name.

Unfortunately, that is quite possibly the only decent performance I can think of for Mr.Kashinath (apart from his hilarious rendition of the agitated director in Upendra’s Sssshh…). Somewhere between trying to portray “reality-as-he-sees-it” and pleasing the audience to enjoy crude and sexual comedy (again…as he sees it), Mr. Kashinath lost his place in my heart and quite possibly many others.

“Hendathi Endare Heegirabeku”(HEH) in fact is one of his decent performances. If you were to look past the amateurish editing, low budget setup (including everything from places, people, animal and things) and some bizarre acting from the “lead actress” in the movie…Kashinath actually manages to deliver partially. I downloaded and saw this movie just because I still have fond memories of the socially stuck brother he portrayed in “Awale Nanna Hendati” who has to put up with a non-stop talking machine of a mother and a non-stop ending up in trouble of a sister (Tara).

HEH is about Rama who has a textbook impression of what his future wife should be like. Yes, the same old cliché of Shakuntala jumping out of Belur and Halebeedu’s ruins and making breakfast for our poor chap. Although he has no education, no prospects, no job, no skills – he aspires to marry the ‘perfectly shaped woman’ keeping a courtroom dancer from the Hoysala dynasty as a prototype. His relatives and mother already have a girl ready for him aptly named Sita (when will this trend end?) who is not yet mature enough to marry our dreamer with “Erotica Illustrated” editions in hand all the time. He is not the least interested in Sita and rebels against her till the final 30 minutes of the movie! A good portion of the movie is spent in the girl asking him to marry her and him refusing to do so. This has several combinations which include the mother-the girl’s parents-the mother’s brother and his wife et al.

While this routine is going in an endless loop, Kashinath sir decides to go ‘fish’ in Bengalooru for the woman he yearns for. I kept thinking why he never visited M.G.Road or Jayanagar and kept wandering around remote locales of the city? As I have seen it, these areas are full of Hoysala creations (no offense meant to the fairer sex) and thus Rama would have no problem finding a replica of his prototype. Regardless, all he does is visually measures up the girl and nods his head in disapproval. This annoys many girls including his aunt (played by Girija Lokesh who was Kashinath’s mother in the former movie mentioned) who is seriously offended for being compared to some vegetables and drums.

A quick change in the pace occurs when the girl Sita finally and reluctantly agrees to marry a stranger her parents manage to dish out. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Or is it? I better leave it for you to undergo the ‘experience’ I had to so that you can appreciate the same.

Performances wise the seasoned characters like Girija Lokesh, Sunder Raj, T.Rama and Kaushik do their job. The leading actress is nothing more than a pair of eyes looking at the camera without as much as a genuine smile. I wonder if that was because she was not paid for the movie. Mr. Kashinath is at his boring best playing the uninspiring character of a guy who has no aim in life except bagging a Ms. Universe for a wife.

There is nothing technical about the movie. A few strategically placed camera angles showcasing some crude scenes and a few badly lit indoor sequences make the day. Comedy is ok but in parts – the kind of jokes that are *beeped* makes the goings on pretty tacky.

The message about looks are not everything is noble but Kashinath fails in delivering it with all the meaningless string of frames he has added. Let us have another intelligent and genuinely funny movie Mr.Kashinath…we are watching.

Yaaaawwwn….am I still writing? Wait…are you still reading? Let me wake us up then.

ShaKri rates this movie 1 out of 5.

Matadaana (2002)

Featuring : Anant Nag, Devraj, Avinash, Tara, Mukhyamantri Chandru.
Director: T.N.Seetharam

Anyone who lived in Karnataka during the 90s was part of a spectacular genre of television that showcased an intelligent and tongue-in-cheek portrayal of modern day life. Despite the fact that it has been a couple of decades, shows like “Bharat Ek Khoj”, “Swami and Friends”, “Malgudi Days” and “Maya Mriga”, to name a few, will always be a part of that individual. The concept of “less is more” was never more successful.

One of the names that I have always grown to admire and respect in the Kannada cinema and television field is T.N.Seetharam. If there is one reason why I know there is a place called Gauribidanoor then it is because of this gentleman. I have always believed that making simple movies is a very difficult and challenging task since it requires a lot of self-exploration. This means that the story writer and the director (the whole crew in fact) primarily have to be in touch with their humane side. They have to be able to see what others take for granted. They have to be able to share the same on screen in such a subtle way that it catches you off guard!

“Mathadaana” comes from the design factory of such a movie maker. I did not know what toexpect when I started watching this movie last month. Movies like “Mathadaana” sometimes find it hard to achieve commercial success since they are more than just movies…they are mirrors. Mirrors to the corrupted society that we are a part of. Mirrors that show all of us as guilty in the eyes of the human race. Little wonder then, that people walk away from such mirrors since they don’t always like what they see.

Based on the novel by Dr.S.L.Byrappa, “Mathadaana” takes us into the lives of two political leaders in a non-descript village of Karnataka – Markande Gowda (Devraj) and Putte Gowda (Sethuram). The itch to be in power is so ruthless that Markande Gowda will do anything to get the support of Ramlinge Gowda (Anant Nag) who supports Mr. Putte Gowda (who has beaten the former thrice in the elections). The concept of social exploitation to get votes is nothing new in India. This theme has been explored very well in this movie. Despite his best attempts to woo Ramlinge Gowda to his side, the losing Markande Gowda does not have much luck in getting the support he wishes for. He even tries to get his “You-know-I-can-speak-good-English” son to marry Nag’s daughter Lakshmi (essayed brilliantly by Tara) but it does not succeed.

Let us now take a look at another vital character in this chess board of a script. Meet Mr.Shivappa (Hemant Hegde) who is well oiled, well mannered and well respected doctor in the village. Let us just call him God since that is pretty much what he does. Saves lives (despite the hard to believe shortage of medical supplies thanks to the red tapes in our beloved political framework) and has earned an enviable admiration in the general public. Romance blossoms between Lakshmi and Shivappa and soon they are singing “idu modalane haadu…” on sun soaked beaches and thorny farmlands. This song remains my favorite from the album.
Things pick up pace here. They get engaged and it seems that the story is turning to cliché. Of course, Markande Gowda is a jealous little mutt poisons our dear doctor’s mind with needless caste/social status based misleading information. Being the Good Samaritan that he is, Shivappa promptly says “Adieu” to Lakshmi and walks off into his cloudy little clinic with strong principles but a broken heart.

Lakshmis’s elder sister passes away trying to give birth to a child that her husband (a role essayed obnoxiously well by Avinash) and his mother so eagerly want. Our dear widowed man then starts looking at Lakshmi to be the next “can you please get me a child?” wife.

Money kicks into the script in the form of loan and once that happens, you know where the movie is headed. Ramlinge Gowda is trapped in a vicious little circle of plots that end up making him so vulnerable that his decision making power is paralyzed. On the other hand there is Dr.Shivappa, all fed and taken care of like a scapegoat to run against Markande Gowda in the elections. The ploy is perfect and our doctor friend walks right into it.

The drama that ensues during the rallies is dubious yet alarmingly funny. Our “angel-in-shoes” doctor does not realize the trap until the last few scenes in the movie and when he does, he is not only heart broken but also has a bruised principle to take care of.

Without giving much of the story’s end away, for those who still have not seen it, all I can say is “Mathadaana” is one shiny and crystal clear mirror into the scum that has populated the grassroots of our political system. I have always found political satire-based movies in India as loud and blood-shed prone. “Mathadaana” is the exact opposite. It showcases the process exactly as it happens; making you feel almost impotent considering all you can do is watch in awe and shame.

Performances are one gem after another. Anant underplays his role beautifully and re-affirms his status as one of my most beloved actors. Tara is fantastic as the distraught and manipulated young woman. Devraj, Sethuram, Avinash and Mukhyamantri Chandru need no review since these are the kind of performers who are always brilliant even in the worst of movies.

Music is soothing to the ears. V.Manohar and Ashwath have penned some melodious tunes for the background score and songs on the album. The usage of violins at appropriate places in the movie keeps the mood upbeat and consistent. Technical aspects are nothing to write home about.

We live in a day and age where movies like “Mathadaana” have to be manufactured day-in and day-out. That is the only way the social fabric can be changed and a better tomorrow can be dreamt of. Until then, let us look into these mirrors and request Mr.Seetharam to keep designing more in the future.

ShaKri rates this movie 4.5 out of 5

Excuse Me (2004)

Featuring: Sunil Raoh, Ajay , Ramya, Sumalata, Ramesh Bhatt.
Directed by : Prem

This review is surely coming in way later than the actual release of this movie. I downloaded it from KT a couple of days ago and so felt the need to share my 2 cents with the rest of KT.I have always been a great admirer of good cinema. Though my primary interest has not been post 1990 Kannada cinema, I have many favorites in Kannada. Something which is thought provoking and "in the face" theme-based that you cannot help but admire. Some names that stand out from the recent past are “Apthamitra” , "Matadana", "Rakthakaneeru" etc. When I saw many encouraging reviews of the movie “Excuse Me” I wanted to see it too since it sounded like a great movie to watch.I could not have been more wrong! Reviews in other places on the net suggest that this movie was a commercial success. I fail to see how that can be given that people from Karnataka are one of the finest people I have known. If they chose this movie as a good one, then I am missing something here.Regardless, here is the storyline as I understood it.

2 young lads (not more than 12-14), both from rural areas of Karnataka, and extremely loud and foul mouthed for someone their age and pretty violent as well. There is Sunil (Sunil Raoh) who is shown as a very competitive person who believes in the expression “The end justifies means.” And then there is Ajay (same name) who is shown as an understanding, caring and warm hearted person with a passion for music. Quite frankly, the first 25 minutes of the movie is the only portion that makes any logical sense in terms of execution.They get shipped off to the city (read Bangalore) to live with a relative where they grow up to be the exact same people they were in the village. While Sunil is chasing random girls in public singing “Roadige Iliye Radhika” Ajay is busy playing the violin in duo with a blind beggar’s flute. Enter Madhu (Ramya) who is introduced as someone who has the same passion for music as Ajay. Despite their best (?) attempts they keep missing out on meeting each other.

Of course, love blossoms before you have completed trying to figure out why they keep using the expression “love maadodhu” a billion times when the theme is pretty clear.Everything builds up into one major chaos with no effort into the performances at all except for poor Sunil Raoh who goes crazy with his “mad/obsessed man/lover” act towards the end. The woman whom he cheated into getting engaged with is dumb as a doorknob without so much as asking him "Why?".It is then that you suddenly realize you have wasted 3 good hours of your life.The son-mother bond of Ajay and Sumalata is never really explored considering that was all that got highlighted initially in the movie. They even had a song for it – “Brahma Vishnu Shiva”.

Overdose of choreography based songs every 20 minutes puts a spanner in the happenings. The editor was clearly dozing off since the work looks pretty amateurish. The camera work is decent enough although there are not many close up shots of the lead actors. Everyone is loud in this movie including the pigeons. Love loses its meaning once it is made to look like something young college kids have to do else they are thought of as losers.Kannada movies that are targetted towards the young generation somehow end up being "below the belt" affairs with nothing new or novel to offer. Loud performances and hard to believe attitudes of both men and women make it a joke. "Excuse Me" is no exception to that pattern.I have known of director Prem only after his latest movie “Jogi”. I sincerely hope he made a better attempt at that without making it another loud and meaningless affair.

ShaKri rates this movie 1.5 out of 5

Raktha Kanneeru (2003)

Featuring : Upendra, Ramya Krishnan, Kumar Bangarappa, Abhirami.
Director : Sadhu Kokila
I had heard a lot of positive things about this movie from family and friends last summer. But somehow I never managed to find a VCD /DVD to watch it at home. Nor was it running in any of the cinemas in Bangalore that I knew of.

Let me say this before I share my thoughts on the movie. I saw this movie over a 2 day period. To elaborate, I saw about an hour’s worth on say a Friday night, and then the remaining part the following night. All I can say is that there was a drastic change in my viewpoint after I had seen the complete movie.

Raktha Kanneeru is the story of the life and times in the early post-independence era. It is a story of Mohan (Upendra) who returns to India after many years. The opening scenes very quickly take the viewer into his life and the kind of person he is. The only expression that I can think of for him at that stage is “a self righteous pinhead”. He has so much wealth that arrogance of the extreme kind takes over. He finds everything in India nasty, in a condition of disrepair and the people are no different. One does wonder if it bothers him so much then why did he come back. Of course, there is more money involved so I guess that takes care of such wonderings. Reeling under the almost devastating western influence this young man has undergone, he ends up in the “adult entertainment center” (read brothel) of Kaanta (Ramya Krishnan) and her greedy mother and pimp. Pretty cliché stuff this.

Events that follow are nothing new to the Indian cine-viewers either. He spends too much time (read nights) with this “lady” and hence the mother and a close friend (Kumar Bangarappa – who I have always considered a good performer) decide on getting our “Mr.I-don’t-belong-here” Indian married. Enter Chandra (Abhirami) – the rustic, vermillion cheeked, completely clothed and flowered (this sort of threw me off a bit too!) village belle. I must admit the fit she has on their wedding night has been amazingly captured. I was laughing every minute during that time. As sad as it was to see this innocent little girl be scandalized by an atrocious Mohan (Uppi re-defines the word “aroused”) I completely enjoyed Upendra’s flawless performance as the lust-seeking pervert.

A pattern emerges here. Mohan is not at all pleased with this shy and quiet bride of his though one wonders what he was thinking when he agreed to marry her! He gets back to his old ways of spending all his wealth on the voluptuous Kaanta and co. Things get worse when Mohan’s mother dies due to all the pain and suffering she has had to go through because of her worthless offspring. Everything else is the same (typical Bollywood script about suspected innocents et al) until the point when disease hits our anti-hero. If this movie was shot in an era of post 2000 A.D then I am sure they would have used AIDS as the disease in picture. However, for the sake of the era, leprosy seemed more fitting.

My true appreciation for this movie starts here. Once the scene that shows Upendra in a dilapidated state has passed by, you cannot stop thinking of how he was. The lavish, Non Resident Indian who had everything in life – a loving mother, a caring wife and an under-appreciated friend appears in front of you many times. The second half of the movie that portrays the Almighty’s silent sword cutting our leading man into bits is what makes this movie click for me. The justification of all his deeds has been captured well.

For those who have not seen this movie, I do not wish to share any more information on it. What happens next is something to be seen and experienced rather than narrated.

Music is a decent affair although the title song “Kanneeru…Raktha Kanneru..” stands out. It could have been a highlight of the movie since the script has a lot of potential for some excellent background score.

No major technical aspects to this movie. Just the plain old camera doing what it has done for so many decades. A few nip and tuck in the editing department would have been nice to keep the story more centered.

Performance wise this is an Upendra movie from start to end. I have always adored his movies – SShh, A, Om etc but as an actor, he wins hands down. If there is ever a role of a leper in any movie in the future, Upendra will fit into it like a T. His monotonous and rather interesting way of delivering dialogs starts off as annoying, but ends being his trademark as Mohan.

Abhirami and Ramya Krishnan are strictly ok considering they were assigned stereotypical roles. Kumar Bangarappa remains consistent as Mohan’s conscience reminder. Comic scenes do exist, but it is ironic that Upendra’s comic timing makes them look like infants. Other comic scenes are nothing to write home about. The nip and tuck could have happened here.

Nice movie with a very strong message about human behavior and how it affects the individuals around - including the human himself/herself.
ShaKri Rates this movie 4 out of 5.