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
(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
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.
- http://asterix786.wordpress.com/2007/12/14/km-chaitanya-director-of-an-underworld-film-speaks-out/ (for things you did not know about Chaitanya)