After a long Kannada movie watching drought, I watched Kantara last week. Recently, I watched the Tamil film Ponniyan Selvan: 1, and a few months ago, the Telugu film Pushpa. Of course, for me, going to the theater is a must.
Kantara is a wonderful movie set in coastal Karnataka on the banks of the Western Ghats. The film depicts the festivals, beliefs, gods and daily life of this region. The plot of man vs. nature and tribal vs. mainstream is not as important as the picture the movie portrays. The authenticity of the pan-chewing characters and the magical story with an unexpected ending make the movie an all-time Kannada blockbuster.
The hero, Shiva, is an alcoholic, pot-smoking tribal strongman. Other characters include Shiva’s female interest Ruchi, who is the first educated tribal girl in the village and who wants to join the forest department; Shiva’s female companion is always found in the haystack; Shiva’s god-fearing younger brother, who assumes the mantle of tribal priest since Shiva renounced himself; Shiva’s mother, who always curses and chases people around with a broom. Then there during Bhootkola the Dungur spirit descends and speaks through the priest. The story begins with the classic “Once upon a time, there was a king…”, and ends with “…and there was no one”! There is a bit of Harry Potter and his father’s interactions with Animagus; And there is a bit of avatar and listen to the spirits of the forest. But the most memorable part of the story is the wide-eyed wild scream of the Ghost Cola.
Ponniyan Selvan, a movie about Emperor Rajaraja Chola, is a kaleidoscope of characters including a king, a queen, a prince, a princess, a boat lady, a messenger who returns a horse, a funny Vaishnava priest, and a guardian angel. on an elephant. Viewers of House of the Dragon will surely feel the parallels of the story, which is about the battle and politics surrounding the succession to the throne.
Ponniyan Selvan has very strong female characters. The film recreates the magical time at the peak of the Tamil Chola Empire when the Brihadeshwara temple was built, the administration was streamlined, the army was strengthened, with a powerful navy, markets were flourishing, and the arts were at their peak. The story in the book is good, what everyone who has read the book says. It was heartwarming to see an old stooped gentleman in his traditional dhoti and white shirt being ushered into the theater to watch a movie. It must have been a long time since this old man came to theatres, but this Tamil movie, true to Kalki Krishnamurthy’s early 1950s work, was probably a must-see for him.
Pushpa is based on characters set in the Eastern Ghats of Andhra Pradesh. You have the lorry driver hero Pushparaj aka Pushpa, who sees crime as a creative profession. Pushpa is a realistic and raw character who hangs on her shoulders as a defense mechanism developed during her childhood called Harami. He shaves his alpha-male beard as he threatens his opponents, and he knows how to deal with cops and smugglers alike. The plot is again man versus nature, while the story revolves around the smuggling of red slippers. The movie became a hit due to the songs, indigenous characters and the mysterious charm of the forest environment. The story is fast paced and lives up to expectations.
The fact that these films are big hits shows that the audience wants to see real characters and local stories. South Indian films seem to have found a way to bring the audience back to the theatres. Big-budget Bollywood productions that are generic, formula-based, and pastel color-themed movies have some lessons to learn here.
(Gopichand Katragadda, former CTO of the Tata Group and founder of AI company Myelin Foundry, is motivated to strip away the known facts to discover the unknown layers.)