Monday, December 06, 2010

Mukhaputa - A movie review

As is usually the case, most watchable Kannada movies go unrecognized unless they get some non-local award. As sad and tragic as it is, it continues to be one of the banes of a once flourishing and creatively vibrant film industry that now reeks in the ruins ruled by mediocre-heavy jingoism. Fortunately, 'Mukhaputa' avoided that inevitable fate into oblivion as it bagged an award at the Ireland Film Festival and the Silver Sierra Best feature film award at the California Film festival.

The story revolves around 7 year old Bhavati (quite an unusual and striking name) who is adopted by a social activist/PhD student/Bharatanatyam dancer Gauri (Roopa Iyer in her first debut venture as film maker) after the kid's parents commit suicide. Gauri is an orphan too, so the relevance of her understanding the kid's emotional distress at a deeper level than most comes as no surprise. The two bond quite naturally and soon she signs papers to become her official caretaker. Also in the loop are Gauri's foster father (Shashidhar Kote) and also her teacher/guide/philosopher. She turns to him for all sorts of guidance on both her career and life. With his untimely death Gauri's world is shattered more than that of his wife and unemployed son Shankar (a neat cinematic liberty naming his character that to ensure we are told that the he and Gauri would end up together at some point). The bereaved family takes care of little Bhavati as one of their own and time moves on.

One day Bhavati falls ill. On further investigation it is revealed that the child is HIV-positive which could possibly explain her parents' sudden deaths. Gauri is caught in a pool of dilemma on this discovery. On the one hand she definitely wants to ensure that Bhavati has as normal a childhood as she can get, but she also isn't sure how to go about it. On a chance encounter with an aged guru at a spiritual center, she gets some sane advise. An advise that is possibly the only deciding factor in how things are made and broken in today's world. That, of knowledge. She seeks out to know everything there is to know about the disease so that she may plan the best route to the future possible for Bhavati. Shankar, in the meawhile, is shown to be an out of work IT guy who isn't really keen on doing anything special in life. Since he harbors romantic feeling towards Gauri (no points for seeing that coming) he decides to join forces with her in bringing warmth, love, affection and most importantly a sense of normalcy in little Bhavati's young life.

What struck me most about the movie was its optimistic take on something as dire as AIDS and its associated taboos in India. It is obvious that Roopa Iyer is personally vested in both the awareness and education of the disease given her commitment in making this feature come alive. Though her prowess as an actress could have been sharper, it doesn't really interfere much with the bigger picture/message the movie tries to send across. The supporting cast lend apt support including the little girl playing Bhavati. A few scenes are placed just to get a popular face into the mix but I guess it is only such marketing strategies that helped her get the movie across to these festivals. A slightly stronger screenplay was needed specially in the scenes where Gauri confronts Bhavati's teachers for isolating the child due to her illness. A grand opportunity to highlight the irony of an educator practicing blatant discrimination purely based on ignorance is woefully lost by Iyer. She chooses, instead, to smear the scene with a background score whilst making the goings on inaudible. The gist is clear of course, but a concrete vocalized version would have made the audience root more firmly for Gauri. It is in these inadequacies that Iyer's lack of experience in film making becomes apparent and makes her character more impersonal.

All said and done, 'Mukhaputa' is eventually about the bigger picture which is killing the social stigma associated with AIDS and the millions of innocent kids who are targeted each day around the world for absolutely no fault of their own. If even a few hearts are forced to reflect on their beliefs after watching this movie, then I'd think Iyer's efforts have found success.


Sandhya said...

The movie is produced by Prof Narayan Hosmane of Northern Illinois University. I have met him in person and this movie was a part of our discussion. He mentioned that he would make movies that create social awareness and that he is not after profits. We need more of such filmmakers. Don't we?

ShaK said...


Absolutely. We definitely need more such film makers who are inclined towards making meaningful and socially relevant cinema. Thank you for the additional information and the gracious response.