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Saturday, January 12, 2008

AA DINAGALU!!

I am not a movie goer – thanks to a hectic work schedule. But I wanted to watch Aa Dinagalu, and finally after numerous attempts to get a ticket I succeeded – have I said ‘Finally’? I cannot emphasize the word enough. My keenness to watch this movie was ‘personal’. A friend directed it, and several others acted in it. Some artists I had already worked with, and some.. never mind all this. Lets just say a lot of people I know were involved with this project. It was a newspaper I think, that said that the movie was based on a factual, historical account of one incident of Bangalore’s crime world in the 70s and 80s, the death of Kotwal Ramachandra – a well known and feared lord of the underworld. Agni Sridhar (also a character in the film) wrote the novel – which bears the same name as the film.

First my congratulations to the director, on making a really successful Kannada film which already has passed its first 75 days of showing and also for getting such a rare mix of talents to collaborate on the film. My personal favourite was Atul Kulkarni’s performance of Agni Sridhar’s character, especially with the dubbed voice of ‘tunta Nanda’ synced perfectly– what a heady mix, it made me giddy. Music also needs a mention, Ilayraja – there I have said it. Commercially, this film is a perfect potion to success - love, betrayal, revenge, money, violence, comedy, timing and a strong script.

It actually looks neat the film overall. The 80s reminds of Ramakrishna Hegde, hotel airlines, fewer traffic on the road, the promenade on MG road full of Bougainville infested with cuscuta, Sri Raj Lassi Bar, and a Black Contessa Classic (J). The style of the film is actually “theatrical”. Each important character gives an intro to himself in context of the other. Chaitanya tells the films in various colours too. – sepia to show the past in the film, the blue for the night etc etc.

Content wise, it tells the tale of the underworld in Bangalore during the 70s and 80s, when the then chief ministers ( Devraj Urs & Gundu Rao) employed the services of the underworld lords in making their rule simpler and more effective. The film sticks to the account of Agni Sridhar.

(Still I wonder about the absence of the political hands behind the two dons. Why is there complete silence about Ramakrishna Hedge’s involvement? )

Two underworld dons controlled the ‘motor of Bangalore’ so to speak, and playing these colossal characters on screen are Ashish Vidhyarthi as Jayaraj and Sharath Lohitashwa as Kotwal Ramachandra. The story does not go too much to their beginnings but to that present moment in history. The story of Kotwal Ramachandra in reality is almost Shakespearean in nature. He is very human, despite being a feared and revered. He like Richard the third is vain, cold and brutal and hurts common innocent people to show his might. He displays the insecurities of Othello, and is superstitious, and like Julius Caesar has a Marcus Antonio – Shetty ( Mangalore Dinesh –who is btw is a treat) by his side constantly, he doubts everyone’s loyalty , yet is gullible and susceptible to flattery like Caesar and dies most tragically, in an actual ‘et tu brute’ moment.

Jayaraj on the other hand is more organized, popular and traditional in his values and beliefs. There is a feel of a fair and just warrior when you see him. He is shown as being just, valiant, just and strong. (doesn’t this already make him endearing to the audiences?). He reminds immediately of a Godfather you respect, and take care of. It felt that he was more in touch with the reality and the ‘fate’ that befits a crime lord unlike Kotwal. How did they grow to be enemies? Kotwal was definitely much a junior to Jayaraj, yet when did they actually become enemies? Jayaraj mentions to his partner somewhere in the film the three times Kotwal and he had fought. Yet, through out the entire film, it is just in one scene that the two actually come close to meeting each other – the attack at Hotel Kanishka. This was for me the paisa vasool scene. Kotwal Ramachandra waits attack Jayaraj, who enters with just one aid (Samson) with him. Watch the movie for the details (its worth it – believe me you) – but the part that I call paisa vasool is the part which reminds of classic war tales. Never attack your enemy when he is not prepared (tsk tsk Kotwal) , practice being sangfroid – something that clearly puts Jayaraj apart from Kotwal. Jayaraj does not even turn to look at the commotion behind him – scores of people with laangs and other assortment of metal weapons. (WOW!!)

I don’t know how the underworld works, and I don’t ever want to know (believe me) but I still hazard a doubt about certain motives in the film. Why was Bachchan keen on killing Kotwal? If it is ever revealed it is in a small one minute conversation right at the beginning of the film, where he says he does not want to fight for Kotwal anymore and wishes to do something about it. Similarly with Shetty’s motives - the only thing Shetty says is , “he is mental.. and that is abuse enough” So the risk question here is – are the motives of the underworld junta so simplistic? In a conversation with Chetan in the Tumkur farm, Kotwal reveals that he has to benefit financially from any deal. In a previous scene , you know just before the hotel Kanishka attack, when Jayaraj’s men play carom and are talking, they discuss why they were not taken to the meeting – “probably because he (Jayaraj) did not want to reveal how much he was earning from Kumar, lest they (his men) get greedy”. Both situations, the motive of gains is clear and well established – so its really disappointing to see Shetty, the aid getting into the plot for – abuse – in all fairness Shetty does say that he has lost his family, but, (sorry) somehow hearing it did not create the impact of Kotwal being so crazy and ‘mental’. He seemed paranoid, he seemed superstitious, yes but with himself. Where was the abuse then?

From the principles to the supporting actors, the cameos - must say star cameos, small or whole ensembles – they do what they are asked to do well and with flair. Chaitanya ensures we all say – “Oh what a film!!! Wonderful!!” one way or the other, but I have to ask why I was not sufficiently engaged or moved by Kotwal’s death. I waited for it with baited breath, to see this mammoth character fall, be butchered, to gasp at the result – really and metaphorically.

When I came back home and discussed the film with people who remembered those days, they all said how the public waited to hear where he (Kotwal) had disappeared off to. What happened to him? Kotwal for them was a larger than life figure, a celebrity of sorts, some one they feared and yet know was a mere puppet in the hands of politicians and bigwigs – a simple boy from Shimogga who dreamt of things beyond his reach, the hero of a tragic play – and his death therefore something to tell of. The murder as shown in the movie is perhaps true to Agni Sridhar’s account of the day. And he did have scores to settle with him and may be still carries a little bitterness towards the man, but what about what Kotwal Ramachandra was to the public. His death in all its irony was rather fast and done. He is beaten at his own game, and is caught when he is unprepared and contemplative- I know it seems like I am nitpicking may be I expected a grandiose exit for the character that has remained in public memory for so long. I don’t recall what Jayaraj says exactly at the funeral, but he perhaps is the only one who values the life.

The last question I require clarification for is why the director used a third voice to tell the story and not the voice of Sridhar who penned the novel? Atul Kulkarni’s voice after all resonated well, and I personally would have loved to see him in a few more frames.. But hey that’s just me.

Well, I will take great pleasure in revising my view the next time I see the film (which I think will be in the near future), but I earnestly hope this is part 1 of a trilogy. Is there hope to see what happened to Jayaraj and Oil Kumar? (What happened to their relationship post Kanishka?) Ashish Vidhyarthi has always been a treat to watch and learn from, so has Achutta, who perhaps is in his own 'golden age' right now – but the greatest surprise so far is in Sharath’s portrayal of Kotwal – the intensity and the nuances and what a comic – chuppa rustum. Overall, as I said, I am waiting for Part 2 – in the mean time you guys go watch it for yourself. It runs at Triveni and PVR.

Tata

Deepthy Shekhar

Intersting websites:

  • http://in.rediff.com/news/2001/aug/14diary.htm
  • http://asterix786.wordpress.com/2007/12/14/km-chaitanya-director-of-an-underworld-film-speaks-out/ (for things you did not know about Chaitanya)
  • http://indianmovies-gossip.blogspot.com/2007/11/aa-dinagalu-is-dj-vu-atul-kulkarni-is.html
  • http://www.mouthshut.com/product-reviews/Aa_Dinagalu-925076027.html


21 comments:

ComfortablyDumb said...

tht was a bloody good review!! watched it on Zee last week sometime... & wanted to read abt BLR underworld. Cool stuff :-)

Cheers!
~V

blr1002 said...

oh dear its already on the tele~~ what a crime!!

Dee

ComfortablyDumb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ComfortablyDumb said...

yep... but why's it a crime? :-/ yeah, I knw... it's a crime 'coz u had to put up w/ all those ads poppin up every now 'n then!!

~V

blr1002 said...

cos we must have these movies running in theatres... we must really keep them going.. rather than send them to the tv channels... who play it over and over again... free of cost

ComfortablyDumb said...

C'mon Deepthi... all of us knw everythin has a so-called 'shelf life'. Moreover, I'm sure Zee must've paid the Aa Dinagalu movie production house a bomb to air this movie. It's a win-win situation... we get to watch the movie, the channel's TRP ratings move up & the film makers also make money! correct me if I'm wrong

ComfortablyDumb said...

sorry... I misspelt ur name incorrectly in my prev. post... it shud've been Deepthy :-)

blr1002 said...

yes... all that may be true.. i see it as a crime only because it loses seriousness when someone gets to watch a movie at home, in a small theatre, and not to mention the interruptions and the hazar re runs

i have not enjoyed movies like that.. and it pains me to see a good movie treated bad.. meaning - tv - ized

ComfortablyDumb said...

yeah... tht's exactly wht I meant... ads popping up! good to see lightnin quick responses for my posts!!

blr1002 said...

nothing on your blog.... who are u?

ComfortablyDumb said...

I hardly get time to write Deepthy... & whn I'm free, I'm lazy to write!! btw, Vinay's the name here.

ps: online on gmail, wanna add me?

AARK said...

Pretty good review! I recently saw the movie on DVD when I visited India last month. I can still remember those days, I had just completed my II PU and joined UVCE. The papers were full of it. Internet was unheard of, at least in India and we relied mostly on Newspapers (including Lankesh Patrike). However, I had never heard this side of the story (Chetan's side). Quite interesting!

blr1002 said...

I am amazed at how well the Chaitanya has captured, the gulmohar trees, the almost empty roads.... must have been difficult... Dee

ComfortablyDumb said...

hey, good to see some traction on this post again! R u guys aware of the fact tht there's a sequel to this movie comin up? Supposedly the story of Jairaj... Aa DingaLu-2. Hope Chaitanya recreates tht magic in this movie too... wishin him all the very best!

~V.

AARK said...

Jairaj's story would be interesting. I had never heard of him until he was released from prison and at that time I thought Kotwal was the biggest "Don" of all and Jairaj was a relatively small time guy, like M C Prakash, etc. Little did I realize how wrong I was! I had met Jairaj once (introduced to him sort of) at my cousin's wedding and he appeared very humble (at least during our meeting, circa 1987-88?). I also remember the day he was killed on Lalbagh Road. My brother was one of the doctors who received the body at Sanjay Gandhi Hospital. My brother said Jairaj's lawyer was DOA and Jairaj was declared dead at the hospital. He was standing for election at that time.

I am a lot more familiar with Jairaj and it would be intersting to see how his story would be captured in the movie.

ComfortablyDumb said...

saar... namskaara!!! eeg yaav gang nimdhu?!! ;-) juz kidding! yeah, I remember tht day whn Jairaj was shot right opposite to tht Lalbagh nursing home. There were blood stains on those walls for a few days. I even remember that foto of Jairaj that was splashed across all the news papers the next day. If I'm correct that was the first underworld murder whr a gun was used. Even today, believe it or not, I look at that wall!!!

Nocturnal Creature said...

Hey guys.... Sorry if i'm bit late here. I just finished watching the movie and I ran a search on google with some of the names of the key characters from the movie and I bumped into this... I must say the review is very good and not to forget so is the movie. I must be honest... I'm not really a movie person. The only reason I got interested in this movie was when I was flipping channels on TV and suddenly heard Illiya Raja's voice singing a Kannada song and a brilliantly composed song to say the least.(Well...if you have'nt figured out by now I'll tell you.... I may not be a movie buff but good music always grabs my attention. You can call me a music person if you like..hehe!!) So I waited for the name of the movie to show up at the end of the song and after that ran a search on the net and got to read some reviews of about the movie and alomst all of them were positive and sure enough after having finished watching the movie I sure do agree with all of it. It's a pity though that such a nice movie was not a commercial succes even in Bangalore and I got to know about it only by chance. Like I said; I only recently got to know about the movie and wanted to watch it ever since. Now that I did watch it I'm not at all disappointed and hope that Kannada film industry comes up with more of such movies and there is a better way to promote them so that the general public is aware of it creats an interest to watch the movie when it is still running in theaters. I know that it's a small budget movie but if they had worked a little more on the promos of the movie it sure would have done a lot better that what it actually must have done when it was released. Its really saddens me to think.... If the same movie had been done with some big time stars like Puneet or Shivrajkumar or Sudeep, I'm sure it would have been a runnaway hit. This brings me back to my point Kannada industry really needs to work on their marketing skills.... when there are so many average movies doing so much business in the same market I don't see why a movie like this should't just because it has no big banner or names attached to it. Look at Bollywood these days... small time movies which are shot well with a good storyline are doing awesome where as crappy movies churned out by big banners featuring big stars are biting dust. I think it's all because of the kind of pre release exposure these small budget movies are getting. I hope that soon the same trend catches up here cuz I know that there is no we are not short of talent. Its just that it requires the right kind of exposure. Thus I end my note wishing all the best and all the success to the fresh and new talents and hope their work gets the due public acknowledgment!

Cheers!
Nocturnal.

Jason Peaceful said...

Sounds all too familiar to anybody that grew up in Bangalore in the 80s.

Thats probably why some of us dont ever want to move back to India.

ComfortablyDumb said...

no offence meant, but I guess of all the excuses tht I've heard b4 abt ppl not wanting to come bk to India, this one has to be lamest!

Jason Peaceful said...

Tell us more. Let your infinite wisdom justify anybody wanting to live far away from a country that was lead by Deve Gowda?

A nation of zombies.

What about land being grabbed by Mafioso ?

ComfortablyDumb said...

pls let's not dilute the purpose of this blog