Language : Kannada | Runtime : 155 Minutes | Director : Rakshit Shetty
What is truth but a perspective that’s spoken more clearly than another? When the journalist Regina(Sheetal) tells that she intends to write a series about an incident considering all perspectives, we realise that Rakshit Shetty‘s debut feature as director, “Ulidavuru Kandanthe”, is going to tackle Rashomon effect, Ever since Akira Kurosawa gave the world the stellar masterpiece, Rashomon, there has been numerous attempts to reuse the effect and tell a story. Rakshit Shetty joins that crowd of filmmakers with his Ulidavaru Kandanthe and unlike most, he actually manages to deliver a good instance of the Rashomon effect.
Ulidavaru Kandanthe’s story is set in the backdrop of Malpe in Dakshina Kannada. The movie’s best part also comes because of this setting and it is the essence of showing the culture of Dakshina Kannada with such elegance. Normally in Kannada TV-serials and films, the language and culture of the region is mangled and shown in a bizarre manner that stoops down to bad humor. Here, Rakshit Shetty celebrates it. When you see his characters conversing in Tulu and Kannada of the region, it takes you to the fishing village and places you square among the characters. So, when Richi(Rakshit Shetty) dances with the men dressed as tigers, you become one of those people at the bus stand who gets to see the seasonal folk spirit come life. In Rakshit Shetty, we see that local thug or college president who gets down to be a man of the soil.
There have been a few movies that are told from a journalist’s point of view. We have them at the start telling how the story is and what it is. I usually find them a redundant character, eating up space and lengthening the movie. I recently watched Cuckoo which had the director acting as a journalist. There I didn’t find him necessary. I only found him eating up the running time. Here, there’s very little where you see her in excess of what is required. This is a little thing but I’ve always found that these little things are what finally make the movie work.
The movie is split into 7 chapters or perspectives and through them we find about about Raghu (Rishab), Richi, Ratna(Tara), Munna(Kishore), Balu(Achyuth Kumar) most importantly among other smaller characters. In Tara, Kishore and Achyuth Kumar, Rakshit Shetty has actors who can speak volumes about a character. It is telling how great actors can make you love even a small and almost unnecessary chapter. The best performance is one where we understand the plight of Ratna, a mother whose son ran away from home and returns 15 years later, only to go missing again. Tara is so wonderful in this that you almost wish that we had a story about the mother alone.
The characters are not slice of life but they have these little characterizations about them, which make it looks like you’ve known them, even the gangster Richi. In Richi, you can see the local over the top thug, the guy who loves Amitabh Bachchan‘s Vijay Dheenanath Chauhan from Agneepath. The swagger and the Ray Ban goggles with the gun swinging in his hip, he embodies the local thug one is bound to notice in Dakshina Kannada but minus the gun. Richi’s behaviour and detailing has a lot to do with the usual remand home kid we see in the movies but Rakshit Shetty’s love for Al Pacino and Amitabh Bachchan means there’s a stylishness here. The way he flirts with Regina is reminiscent of Vikram from Sethu and he makes Richi a very attractively flavoured character and thereby his chapter the most fun.Munna embodies the migrant in a village who falls in love with a local girl. This again plays like a homage to movies where a guy follows a girl but doesn’t talk to her. We have seen so many such instances in our movies before and Munna becomes another character to don the role. The slice of life for him is the way the migrant is treated by the villagers. He comes from the “gatta” (area in and around Mandya-Mysore-Bangalore) and there is always a bit of ribbing between the people from this region and the Dakshina Kannada people. He is “pranayaraja” in the village because of his love for a local girl. The characters are everyday characters from a village in Dakshina Kannada and anyone who is from the region connects instantly.
The little sidekick who likes goggles and wants Ray Bans from Munna or Richi or a mother who can’t help but speak out her happiness, these are universal tones and they connect with everyone. Along with these, the fascination of Dubai among the people of the region(Raghu Pandeshwar‘s gleeful face at its mention is hard to forget) or the special place for a Belchappa (scarecrow) in the community as Balu explains to Munna are the minute details that make Dakshina Kannada the region it is. Rakshit Shetty understands the place and he gives it a life on screen that it has hitherto not been so generously given.
In terms of story, this isn’t special but the movie becomes interesting because of its narrative. It keeps going through a roller coaster in terms of pacing but it is a roller coaster which is captivating. There is no real surprise in how things turn out, it is as expected. The cards are shuffled and dealt one after the other but not in sequence and so, the twists and suspense prevails till the final chapter. We have to remember here that the movie is more than the twist and suspense here. It is about perspectives and understanding that a story can be entertaining even without needing big action or numerous twists. In many a way, like Thegidi in Tamil, it is a movie which works because it is simple but made with style and an appreciation for the form. It also is one of the problems with movie. The flashback sequence between Raghu and Richi is dull, uninspiring and too ordinary and with Rishab hardly any convincing, Raghu’s character comes across as very weak and one of the downers of the movie.
There are moments when you think that the style might have gone overboard, especially the retro style in the first chapter during the chase. But with Ajaneeth Loknath‘s music, it fits well, even if Rishab doesn’t. There are moments when the music drowns out some of the other sounds in the film, it is one of the few things that are overdone in an otherwise understated film.
Ulidavaru Kandanthe stands tall among other films from Sandalwood not because it aims to be different but because it understands the intricacies of narrating a story. It becomes a film about a region and its people as the story searches for a definite perspective. Ulidavuru Kandanthe is a movie I liked watching and Rakshit Shetty is a filmmaker who I expect to make it big. The movie reminded me what good cinema can be after a weekend spent watching the mundane. Simple, authentic and beautiful.