Thursday, January 19, 2006

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


Obba Kannadiga said...

Hi, nice review, thanks.
Matadana is a good story. But it hasnt come as that good, seemed mechanical for me. In the last scene that tara smiles, it is very plain as if she is smiling at a friend, ಅದು ಕುಟುಕುವ ನಗೆಯಾಗಿರಬೇಕಿತ್ತು.



Obba Kannadiga said...

Acting of devaraj and ananthanga , Simply brillient.