Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Aparichita (1978)

Aparichita (1978)
Featuring: Suresh Heblikar, Vasudeva Rao, Shobha and others.
Directed by: Kashinath

Circa 2000 and we see a steep decline in movies that revolve around mystery and edge-of-the-seat plots in the Kannada movie industry. The only two movies of this genre that come to mind almost immediately are “Ssshh…” and “Baa Nalle Madhuchandrake”. Now one might wonder if this is because of the growing demand in sleaze and never-ending hunger for remakes. In fact I think it is also this and more importantly, we viewers have been fed on such a high-calorie diet of suspense and intrigue from other languages (including the beloved Hollywood) that it has become practically impossible for writers to come up with plots that can outsmart the viewer. If memory serves me right these above two mentioned movies in my experience, which is by far nowhere near the average Kannada cine-goers, are the ones that had me pleasantly surprised and extremely pleased with the outcome. If “Sssh…” was jaw-aching comedy spiced with slick editing then “Baa Nalle..” kept us wondering till the end about the real killer.

“Aparichita” comes from the then steady hands of Kashinath. I had not even heard of such a move until recently. Once I heard that it was Kashinath’s directorial debut, I just had to see it. One needs to give the man credit where it is due and hence I take the opportunity to explore his very first feature.

Set in the background of a controversial little town, “Aparichita” takes us directly into the midst of action with the opening scene showcasing a gunshot and fleeing birds in the sky. A drunk claims that he has just witnessed the corpse of a well known man in the woods. Relatives (that include a promiscuous step-mother), her lover and a few other villagers rush to the spot to find a dead pig instead of Shaam (Kokila Mohan) whose body was allegedly found. Police and everyone else around mock the drunk calling it one more of his many fantasy-land stories. However, he insists he saw Shaam’s dead body there and hence to prove his point keeps visiting the spot so that “the murderer” might show up.

Enter Prakash (Suresh Heblikar) who claims to be Shaam’s business partner and a writer of some sort who comes looking for the latter and some ‘countryside inspiration’. Shaam’s step-mother (Sri Lalita) tells Prakash that Shaam is pretty random when it comes to being at home. Prakash decides to wait for Shaam at her place but is soon transferred to a nearby bungalow to make sure Mrs.-was-too-young-when-my-husband-died continues to meet her glass-eyed lover. Prakash realizes there is a rumor that Shaam was apparently found dead in the woods and befriends everyone from the drunk to the little boy who keeps running across the village a thousand times a day running errands. While Mr. Writer is shown to be doing more than enquiring about a friend’s mysterious disappearance, he also manages to find time to socialize with Kusuma (Shobha…no idea who this woman is. Seeing her for the first time onscreen.) who lives with her mother in the same village. A poker-faced Rangaiah (Vasudeva Rao) keeps following Prakash and all his new-found diversions. Prakash suspects foul play and starts digging deep into the relationships that bonded Shaam (still presumed dead) with every other major and minor player in the village.

One good twist deserves another and hence the plot continues to thicken until it is found out that Shaam was indeed murdered and buried in a deserted mansion nearby. To keep people away from the late-night action in that place another fear of “Kolli Devva” (the firebrand ghost) is prevalent. Despite all these hurdles, Prakash manages to bribe his way around the town finding out everything he needs to know to figure out how and why Shaam was killed.

I hate revealing too much for such movies since every scene reveals something different to us and there is no smart way to do justice to such plots. The only recommendation I can make is “Aparachita” is a well made mystery movie. The sketches that are drawn by Kashinath are very well combined together in a neat little fabric as we approach the climax. The pieces of the puzzle start falling together as we start figuring out the real murderer but the revelation of the criminal could have used a little more tact. Once the name and face of the murderer has been revealed a good part of the movie takes a dip with some past stories being investigated. The second half which explores Kusuma’s past was the only dragged out sequence in the entire affair. This movie did not need any songs at all since its focus is on the scene of crime. But, I guess to keep the movie’s value viable a couple of random songs were thrown into the mix.

Performances are crisp and concise. Suresh Heblikar plays his role well as the competent and inquisitive Prakash who will go to all extents to find out what Shaam’s story was. Shobha is adequate as the dove-faced beauty who is supposedly putting up with a turbulent past. Vasudeva Rao is at his usual best with histrionics display in the right amounts. Kokila Mohan makes a pleasant appearance as the wayward Shaam. All the other supporting characters are not big names, but definitely play vital roles in stitching this piece together.

Kashinath delivers a wonderful and enjoyable fare for once that can be seen by the entire family. It is truly a shame that an artiste of his caliber has not yet found his true worth. I have always admired his performances when they were good but also despised him for mocking the art form of acting. This time, however, I recognize the competence he shows in producing “Aparichita”.

Technical aspects are pretty mediocre considering most of Kashinath’s productions are on a tight leash financially. Camera work is good but could have used more lighting in certain crucial places. Editing seems hurried in many places but as the story unfolds it does not worsen. For a movie set in 1978, “Aparachita” looks and feels like it should. A movie worth watching at least once considering you will not watch such thrillers once the secret is out.


Madhu said...

Great shak! Also, nimma list nalli 'tarka' martralla mattu 'hendtighelbedi' martralla?
Your review is good - I felt aparichita was one of the most gripping suspense movies i've seen in Kannada.
Kashinath avara chitra idu antha nange innoo nambakkaagalla!!!?

koira srinivas ramesh said...

The very best suspense and thriller movie i have seen in my life. The photography and the music is outstanding. But i am very much dissappointed that the movie is not available on the net.k s ramesh

koira srinivas ramesh said...

The very best suspense and thriller movie i have seen in my life. The photography and the music is outstanding. But i am very much dissappointed that the movie is not available on the net.k s ramesh

kpg said...

Yes, I agree..this is a great suspense movie! The best in Kannada cinema that too coming from Kashinath. The police inspector in the movie is my own dad, Prem, back in the day and so I've heard first hand of how everyone really enjoyed making this move...good review! Great movie! Superb acting!


Mahesh Hegade said...

Great review. This movie, which I saw as a 6 year old in 1978, has continued to impress me year after year!

Royath Rak said...

Undoubtedly one of the greatest suspense movie that I've seen, excellent conceptualisation by Kashinath, when it seems that the obvious is what to be expected, it fools the viewers, denouement puts everything in place, no logical blunders in the story as such which is very hard to achieve, it shows the due diligence that has gone into the making of the movie. Principles of Natural Justice and the law of the land, both triumph. Amazing. Whether Kashinath chose to remain on the sidelines or is it because of the industry, Kannada audience are deprived of such quality movies in the recent times with Lucia being a notable exception in my view. In one of his recent interview he said he is hunting for a Hollywood producer for his next story based on some Universal Philosophy, shame on Kannada industry for not capitalising on such ingenious people.