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 na├»ve 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.


SN said...

Nice review Shakri..

shakri said...

Thank you SN. Please keep visiting the blog.


Samba said...

Amazing. Seems to be a fantastic mix of realism, thrill and parody.

Gotta see this movie. Reminds me of Tarka, Hedtheeghelbedi et al.