Arishadvarga movie review: Arvind Kamath's thriller warrants multiple viewings for its delicious complexity

What happens when characters struggle with their base instincts and seek light and redemption? Arvind Kamath’s delicious thriller is worth multiple watches.

Subha J Rao November 30, 2020 11:52:00 IST
Arishadvarga movie review: Arvind Kamath's thriller warrants multiple viewings for its delicious complexity

A still from Arishadvarga

Language: Kannada

Rating: 3.5

Lust, greed, anger, pride, attachment and jealousy are said to make up the Arishadvarga, the six enemies of the mind. What if, in a beautifully-written film about people with these traits, another character without any of these traits charms you? For me, the hero of Arvind Kamath’s Arishadvarga is Rajanna, the head constable ready for retirement. He sees up close and personal people with these traits, and the results of these traits — murder, deception…but remains unchanged.

Arishadvarga is a film that deserves multiple viewings — there’s so much to absorb, so many strands to take in, so much deceit, a single viewing is not enough. A second watch reveals more gold coins that you’d love to pick up. Each character tells his or her version of a story, and the texture of what you see changes depending on the narration.

When you’re settling down to one version, another comes and nudges you to a complete change in perception.

So, what triggers a crime? Lust, greed, anger, pride, attachment or jealousy, or all of the above? Arvind Kamath explores this in delicious detail in a story about a film editor who is married to an older man who owns a quarry; Anish (Mahesh Bung), an actor who doubles up as a gigolo; an actress Saakshi (Samyukta Hornad) swinging by for an audition; an auto driver Bheemsen Joshi (Gopalkrishna Deshpande) tempted by easy money, but aware of the CCTV; a director Karthik (Aravind Kuplikar) who indulges his producer’s wife; and Ashok Kalburgi (Nanda Gopal), an inspector who is dour-faced, but who takes us along as he unravels knot after knot of what looks like an open and shut murder case, but is not. And then, there is Rajanna (the wise Sripathi Manjanabailu), who sees everything, speaks only when spoken to, reiterates a truth twice even when shut down, and who intuitively knows what his officer wants. He has two weeks to go before retirement and is embroiled in a case with more twists and turns than a maze.

Almost every other review of the film mentions Mansore’s Nathicharami, and not without reason. Few films speak about a woman’s yearning for sexual companionship, her needs and desires. This is the second Kannada film in recent times to do that. Do you sympathise with Kruthi Bhat (a brilliant Anju Alva Naik), who uses her professional skills for things other than editing films or do you see logic in Manjunath Bhat’s (Avinash, as always effective) rage when he’s left gasping for breath because someone’s in the mood for sex?

Among the more poignant characters is that of Anish. He’s but a commodity for his clients. A lady he meets at a coffee shop does not think twice before slapping his bottom. He tries to pretend it does not matter, but it smarts to be treated thus in public. This then, is also the same boy who’s willing to carry along a stash of condoms, and anything else his clients might want him to wear during role play. Why does his character suffer the fate it does? Long after the film ends, you are left certain that sex workers, be it a woman, man or transperson, always remain vulnerable and prone to abuse.

The film is deep noir territory, yes, but there’s an amazing layer of humour that’s subtle, but steady. When a nervous Sakshi is questioned soon after her engagement if Anish is a ‘jigolo’, she can’t resist correcting Ashok. ‘Gigolo’, she says, and the inspector tells the writer that the word begins with a ‘G’.
Arvind could have chosen to paint his characters in bold strokes of grey, but he chooses to humanise them with flecks of white. Ashok might be neck deep in a murder case, but can’t bear to eat a badly-made masala dose dipped in chutney. No self-respecting Bengalurean would, actually.

Manjunath knows he cannot give his wife what she wants and sees her moving away from him. His eyes follow other men’s eyes following her, and he seethes within, in impotent fury. But he also seems to understand, till he sees a video. That emasculates him in a way nothing else has, and he can’t bear it. But, even before this, his relationship with Kruthi is unlike what you’ve seen on screen. She’s her own person and he does not ‘expect’ her to make him coffee or breakfast; he understands her need for space.

The other Nathicharami link is in cinematographer Balaji Manohar (who played the psychiatrist Carvalho in Mansore’s film, the one who helps Gowri come to terms with her longing). His frames enhance the writing. Ashok is always the loner, be it in huge spaces or tiny ones. The look of the film changes depending on who is narrating it. And, the one person lording over the entire film is Manjunath, when he is alive or after he dies. His photo reigns large over a huge house, and no one can escape him. Fitting, for everything that happens can be traced back to him. Including the last phone call.

Watch Arishadvarga, for it announces the arrival of a bold, new voice in the form of director Arvind Kamath. He’s also a writer who likes to let his film breathe, allowing you a chance to enter its universe and become one with it. The best part? This is a journey you’d like to go on willingly.

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