Sunday, February 19, 2006

Swastik (1998)

Swastik (1998)
Featuring: Raghavendra Rajkumar, Srinath, Vijayalaxmi and others.
Directed by: Upendra

If there is one thing I have always admired about Upendra, it is his ability to push the envelope with what is considered “conventional cinema” by employing new methods of capturing onscreen happenings. “Ssshh…” and “Om” are quite possibly the two major off beat themes that pretty much created a genre of sorts after they were released. He continued his winning ways with “A” and “Upendra” where he managed to challenge the limits of the audiences’ perception of Kannada movies. His unusually comfortable way of connecting with the masses and the classes (who I know grudgingly would admit he is definitely apart from the regular clan) made him big news overnight.

Every day is not a Sunday (or should I say Friday since that is day most fortunes are manufactured in India with regards to cinema) is true with all successful directors. But with “Swastik” Upendra chooses a day that does not even appear on the weekly calendar! Did that not make sense? Read on.

Things catch pace right away in this feature with Raghavendra Rajkumar being shown as a “wanted” terrorist who is busy planting flags of Pakistan in Kashmir. A curious press reporter manages to click a few good ones of this anti-India chap and soon he is a nation-wide threat. The police department, headed by Srinath, is on their toes at this point trying to get a grip of this man.

Cut to a scene at the airport where he is shown being received by his parents (symbolically wearing a cap and speaking Urdu/Hindi to denote they follow Islam) but imagine our surprise when the father pulls out a dagger and stabs his own son! The son is quickly transported to a hospital and the towering Director of CBI (Srinath) walks in with people who seem straight out of a “Men in Black” sequel and figures out that the parents know of their son's criminal activities. What do you know! Mr. Terrorist manages to flee the hospital and is now a wanted fugitive.

Cut to a scene at a slum somewhere where we find the same Raghavendra Rajkumar snoring away lazily on a bed. While Raghu (the slum Raghavendra Rajkumar) is busy doing nothing, the terrorist is shown to be busy using Raghu as an excuse to be in the right place at the right time.

Cut to a scene where the cops arrest Mr.Nice guy (aka Hero) mistaking him to be the gangster from Pakistan. Now we are supposed to be following Mr.Nice Guy and Mr.Nasty without losing track. Great! The last thing the audience wants to do for three hours is to get a pad and note down who is who. Nice going Uppi! Throw in a couple of beauties in this mix to “make sense” and the circle seems complete.

One thing leads to another and Upendra starts showcasing too much in the time slot given to him. One plot has a dozen sub plots not allowing us to completely connect the dots. As the movie progresses more dots appear in all shapes and sizes leaving us helplessly waiting for an equally bizarre and meaningless ending with some underlining of “patriotism” done. All that gets covered with the other heap of chaos Upendra puts on us.

This will definitely be one of the shortest reviews I have written so far since this movie after the first half an hour is pure nonsense. While on the one hand Upendra tries to pull a rabbit out of the hat with some sequences, on the other he keeps getting mangled in his own “logic” as it were. Except for a few fairly done comic sequences, “Swastik” is one roller coaster ride to insanity and back.

The one thing I did wonder however, considering it was Parvatamma Rajkumar’s production, that maybe Upendra was threatened to whip out a non-existent career booster for Raghavendra just like he had done “Om” for Shivraj. Since there is no other logical explanation why an intelligent man like Upendra would make a movie like “Swastik”! Oh! There is more good news. The title of the movie ends up being some random wooden box with some Diwali crackers inside. That’s all. So don’t expect any firecrackers there.

Raghavendra Rajkumar goes along for the ride with a decent performance. One cannot blame the man for trying. Srinath overacts, as usual, as the clueless Director of CBI. Vijayalakshmi and the other girl are completely wasted in meaningless roles. Others are …there as well. Some songs are decently recorded under V. Manohar’s baton and shot without anything outstanding. Editing is, as always, quick and confusing like most Upendra’s features.

If the symbol became legend with the long gone Hitler I hope Upendra does not bring more such “Swastik”s back to us. “Much ado about nothing” is an expression that pretty much sums up this feature.

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