The Gods, with just a month for the close of the year ,appear to have relented and smiled, at last! Seriously, the reader would have been staring at another of those countless mournful pieces eager to script a very creative obituary of the Kannada film industry at this very moment, if not for a saving grace that appeared last Friday, which goes by the name of ‘Edhegaarike’. Mainstream Kannada cinema this year has finally discharged one product that the moviegoer with the slightest hint of discernment can relate to.
One of the defensive postures adopted by your regular proud Kannadiga, whenever needled with gibes about the abysmal quality of movies here, would be to hark back to the golden period of Kannada cinema during the 1970s and 80s, which drew heavily from popular and thought provoking novels. ‘Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu’, ‘Banker Margayya’, ‘Bangarada Manushya’, shining examples, will not prove him wrong. If inspiration from good literature was any measure of the quality of films, then Edhegaarike should automatically score on that front, even if not riding on any other merit. But thankfully, the movie respects the medium it’s bred in, and has a narrative that earns it the respect reserved for classics. ‘Agni’ Sridhar, the reformed gangster and a man of letters is now a respected name in the industry. His recounting in paperback of his days in the underworld in ‘Dadagiriya Dinagalu’ was a bestseller and its celluloid cousin ‘Aa Dinagalu’ was a hit and a critically acclaimed film as well. Good for him. His protégé, Sumana Kiththoor now presents Edegaarike , a movie based on a novel by the same title, which he had penned a few years ago. No prizes for guessing the underlying theme of the novel. Edhegaarike in Kannada translates to ‘Guts’, though I’m slightly unsure as to why the tag line has the commonplace article (grammar) added.
It is indeed a predicament of gigantic proportions when you are faced with no choice but to pull the plug on someone’s life, more so when the latter knows he’s waiting in the line of fire. Doubly so when you share an emotional bonding with him, albeit a fleeting one. Edhegaarike’s strong point lies in mirroring this through conversations between the protagonists. Gangster flicks are not new to Kannada cinema, but our audiences have mostly been fed a bloody diet of such movies. Machetes, choppers, guns are brandished with flourish and the dialect is consciously pedestrian. And no, the argument that thugs can only speak such a language will hold little water, as it takes all sorts, including the literary types to stoke the fire of rivalry. Edhegaarike eschews blood and gore for a brilliant narrative, and the characters speak Kannada we hear in respectable neighborhoods. Sumana mentioned in a TV interview that she was faced with troubling questions even while she was shooting the film. I see no reason why she wouldn’t have, as the more I thought about it long after the movie was over, the turmoil in the mind of the guy with the gun continued to bother me. And imagine depicting on screen a cocktail of emotions. Anger, indignation, empathy, love, friendship, humanity and such related. Aditya as Sona, a sharp shooter from Bombay, who’s sent to Bangalore on the pretext of ‘fielding’ a local don, and Atul Kulkarni as Sridhar, who learns eventually that he needs to kill Sona, emote well and my post-movie ruminations had their performances blend so perfectly into the characters I felt for. The background score by Sadhu Kokila is in good taste and the single number which he has rendered is a welcome change from all the cacophony we are subjected to these days.
All ye cinema faithful, a trip to the nearest theater to catch Edhegaarike is in order. That the movie is in Kannada will certainly relieve bruised egos, while cosmetically enriching the product.