Written by : Vasant Mokashi
Starring : Anant Nag, Shankar Nag, T.S Nagabharana
Runtime : 125 minutes
In the glory days of Doordarshan, one of the most acclaimed, loved and widely watched television serials was Malgudi Days. Based on the book by the late R.K Narayan, the series was a wonderful depiction of village life set in the fictional town of Malgudi. One of the prime reasons the series became endearing was due to the deft and skilled direction by the late Shankar Nag, which beautifully brought out the nuances of a sleepy hamlet which could have been situated in any part of India. Barring Malgudi Days, my exposure to Shankar Nag’s work was largely limited. As a kid I remember seeing some of his movies on television, though the names of the films largely remain a blur.
A few years ago when I started watching regional cinema, I was keen to find out more about Shankar Nag and the films directed by him. For quite some time I had heard a lot of the films directed by him especially Accident. All the reviews available for the film currently on the net had only good things to say about the film. Moreover this article by fellow MAM author Vikram Bondal on Shankar Nag and his films only heightened my curiosity with regards to the film. Finally I was able to see the film and I must admit to having been highly impressed ever since I watched it.
Accident narrates the story of Deepak (Ashok Mandanna) and Rahul (Srinivasa Prasad) two youngsters belonging to very affluent families and living in a world where sex, drugs, alcohol, partying and reckless driving are their topmost priorities. One night in a drunken and a drugged state of mind, they mow down several people sleeping on the footpath barring one lone surviving witness Ramanna (T.S Nagabharana). A cop named Inspector Rao (Ramesh Bhatt) and Ravi (Shankar Nag) a journalist are hot on their trail and vow to prove them guilty. Meanwhile Deepak’s father Dharamadhikari (Anant Nag) a high profile politician returns to the city and starts using his clout to clear the names of his son Deepak and his friend Rahul from the case. Whether he is successful in getting their names cleared from the case, whether the cop and the journalist are successful in proving them guilty is what forms the later part of the film.
Drunken driving incidents of these kinds have become a very common incident these days. However for a film made in the late 80’s, it was surely quite gutsy and unconventional to make a film on such a subject. Given the subject that the film deals with, Accident could easily have ended becoming a commercial pot-boiler and a sermon on the decay prevalent in our society. However the direction by Shankar Nag makes all the difference. Shankar Nag doesn’t shy away from showing us the uncomfortable realities of our life and the society around us. The reckless lifestyle and attitude of Rahul and Deepak towards their life and the people around them, the extent to which the people in power go to manipulate the truth, the easy access of youngsters to drugs are some of the things which Shankar Nag depicts through this film. Accident is perhaps one of the earliest films that took a very realistic at the corruption prevalent in the society and the futile struggle of honest individuals to fight the same. A large part of the credit should also be given to Vasant Mokashi’s screenplay which takes a rather realistic approach to the film. Instead of offering vigilante or larger than life solutions to these problems, it only raises uncomfortable questions about the corruption and the lengths to which the people in power can go to save their own selves and manipulate the laws as per their free will. This is very aptly conveyed through the character of Inspector Rao when he says to a dejected Ravi ‘You are trying to demolish a wall which cannot be demolished’ referring to the latter’s rather futile attempts to prove Deepak and Rahul guilty for the accident.
All the characters are well etched out and thankfully none of them come across as caricatured or underdeveloped. The film covers all the aspects of the protagonists and the story quite well. Whilst on one hand Dharamadhikari uses his influence to get his son’s name cleared from the mess. However at the same time, he is also shown as a concerned parent who regrets the accident, the way his son behaves with utter disregard for the law and his drug addiction. Somewhere along the line, the film also indicates that parental negligence and the fact they got all the luxuries of life has also resulted in both Deepak and Rahul turning out to be wayward , irresponsible individuals. The film also throws light on the fate of several people who come for faraway villages to the metros in search of a better life and improved monetary conditions. But end up dwelling on the footpaths and pavements. These are individuals at whom we normally smirk upon and wouldn’t even bother to give a second glance at, while passing through the roads and waiting at the traffic signal.
Shankar Nag doesn’t waste any time in setting up the story. From the first scene to the last, the film moves in a single direction. Admirably, Nag and his team also refrain from adding unwanted diversions to the film such as unwanted songs, romantic tracks, comic tracks etc. Just when you think the film is heading for an oft repeated culmination, the film ends with a climax that not only leaves you shocked but also leaves you with mixed feelings. Anant Nag stands out with his performance as the cunning politician. Whilst on one hand, one gets enraged seeing him use his clout to save his son, on the other hand one does sympathise with him while he is trying to come to terms with his son’s drug addiction. Shankar Nag and Ramesh Bhatt are both efficient in their roles. Arundhati Nag leaves an impression in a small role as Rahul’s mother. Veteran director T.S Nagbharana is rather excellent as the sole survivor of the ghastly incident and it is hard not to sympathise with his plight. Ashok Mandanna and Srinivas Prasad do an okay job, although I personally felt their performances could have been better.
Technically the film is quite slick and Shankar Nag is aided rather well by his technical team which makes the film a notch above the rest. Editor P Bhakatvatsalam has done a rather swell job with his editing as hardly any scene seems unwanted in the film. Cinematography by Devdhar goes rather well with the tone of the film. Whether it is the bright, bustling streets of Bangalore city or the dark, dimly lit interior towns, the cinematography is perhaps just adequate. A special mention must be made of the sound design by Pandurangan and the background score by the maestro Ilaiyaraja. The sound design stands out for uniquely capturing various sounds such as the screeching of tyres, bullets being slid in a pistol and using other such sounds rather uniquely in the film. Do watch out for the opening titles which have been impressively set to the sound of the clicking of a typewriter keys. The background score is used very sparsely in the film. Yet whenever it is used in the film, it doesn’t fail to leave an impact especially in the final scene of the movie. The accident scene staged in the film is shot brilliantly and is bound to give you goose bumps every single time you watch it.
Accident gives a peek into the mind of Shankar Nag who definitely seemed to be way ahead of his contemporaries especially with regards to his directorial skills. Call it a sheer irony or a cruel twist of fate, Shankar Nag himself passed away in a car accident a few years after the release of this film. Ask any self respecting Kannada movie buff about Shankar Nag and they would still swear by Shankar Nag and his films. And how they feel Kannada cinema still misses the presence of this gifted individual. Even after so many years of its release, Accident stands out as a film which is still relevant and contemporary. After watching a film like Accident, one would agree with them, given the fact that Kannada cinema has largely slid into an abyss of remakes of mediocrity of late. Perhaps the presence of gifted or similar minded individuals like Shankar Nag could help the Kannada film industry get out of its present dire situation.
What irks me however is the print available of the movie currently is of pathetic quality and does great disservice to the film. Moreover the film is available only on VCD and I believe no DVD’s of this film are available in the market (at least I wasn’t able to find one). A lot of the technical brilliance of the film is lost thanks to the inferior quality of the print available. Whilst on one hand, we have fan clubs, posters etc worshipping their yesteryear favourite stars, directors etc and on the other hand no one is concerned about making good quality CD/DVD’s of their films available. Similar is the case with Shankar Nag. Whilst the late actor/director is still remembered by way of fan clubs, posters, banners etc especially in Bangalore, finding good quality DVD’s especially of the films directed by him is a rather uphill task.
The non availability of good quality prints is a problem prevalent with the films of all regional languages and to quite an extent with Hindi films too. Ask any movie buff who is keen to watch acclaimed regional movies with subtitles especially of yesteryear and you will perhaps get an idea about what I intend to convey . If finding good quality prints for movies of 70’s and 80’s is a herculean task, one can’t even think how difficult it would be to find films made in the decades prior to the 70’s and 80’s. Why doesn’t someone take the initiative to re-release good quality prints of landmark Hindi and regional films is something which I fail to understand. Especially the companies having the video rights, why don’t they do something about it? Why doesn’t someone associated with such landmark films take an initiative for the same?
Of late NFDC under the label – Cinemas of India has started re-releasing award winning films such as Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron with restored quality prints. I really hope other such companies and film bodies start doing something similar for critically acclaimed regional cinema. Or else we stand to lose important and relevant films like Accident a few years from now.