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

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