Rajaratha movie review: Anup Bhandari's inconsistent writing doesn't allow Nirup's screen presence to shine

The team that brought RangiTaranga is back after a gap of more than two and a half years. The Bhandari brothers, along with some brilliant cast and crew members, served the thriller in 2015 to great applause. It is still a hot cake for people who are interested in the twists and turns of new-wave Kannada cinema.


Avantika Shetty and Nirup Bhandari in a still from Rajaratha. YouTube

Rajaratha – written and directed by Anup Bhandari – stars Nirup Bhandari as Abhi, a happy-go-lucky guy with his heart in the right place. His character can be summed up by borrowing the name Ravishankar gives him – “Edabidangi”. Finding an equivalent to this word in the English language is tough. It simply means that our hero is dim-witted, but in a more comical way. To give you an example, he is the sort of person who trips on his own untied shoelaces and spills coffee over a hot-headed man.

Had this been done by a comedian, it would have gotten him a slap and the background score would have amplified the act to make it easier for the audiences to find the joke in the chaos. Since this is the hero we are talking about, it does not happen. It is just a simple visual gag.

Joining the “Edabidangi” in his adventure is the “Princess” (again borrowing the name from Ravishankar’s references). Avantika Shetty’s Megha may have several backstories. Why did she join an engineering college? Why did she fall for a good-for-nothing guy named Suraj? But Rajaratha is not interested in any of them. Megha is a character that merely comes alive through the eyes of Abhi and hence, she smells of roses and honey petals. The hero is constantly thinking of romancing the heroine in lush green fields (not Switzerland, mind you; Western Ghats would do).

Why do you think she is called Princess? Ravishankar says that she looks like one. Come to think of it, she is the only person in the film who is introduced without large quirks running around her head unlike the other passengers on the bus.

Anup set his first movie in a fictional village called Kamarottu and this time, he has picked up two names for two fictional places – Rigalore and Periampally. While the exact location of Rigalore is hard to pin down (it is somewhere in the green belt of Karnataka), Periampally is the town that borders Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The director’s ambitions have become loftier with his sophomore project. He is not in the mood for one-size-fits-for-all thriller. And this is where Arya comes in.

Arya’s entry took me back to 2010’s Telugu film Varudu where he played the quintessential villain. Here, though, he is a pawn in the big bad world of politics. Various issues have been masked under the face of fiction – the names of the right-wing political outfits that go to great lengths to create tussles between two states, an alcohol brand that features a bird in its logo, a riot that swallows the lives of people and vehicles.

The riots... let me refresh your memory. A year and a half ago, buses were burnt and commoners were attacked in Bengaluru. The pricking issue was the Cauvery verdict (a matter involving the two neighboring states). Anup does not touch the subject in his movie, yet it is not difficult to connect the dots. (He may have, also, been inspired by other incidents. Yet, this one hits closer to home.)

A particular scene where a Hindi-speaking man is dragged out in barbaric methods by goondas reminded me of the chilling bit in Aparna Sen’s Mr and Mrs Iyer where a young man is asked to pull his pants down to check if he has had a circumcision (to determine his religious identity). For all these socially conscious points Rajaratha makes, it shows that Anup is not a one-film wonder.

However, here is the catch. Nirup’s body language does not fit the standards of a typical film hero.  RangiTaranga came with absolutely no baggage and became the talk of the town immediately after its release. Its gripping screenplay caught the attention of the movie-going public. Anup has not forgotten any of that. He has used those praises to his advantage and, in the process, has tried to make a star of his brother by deploying punch dialogues and slow motion shots in his latest movie.

The introduction scenes are especially an elaborate set-up to make a forest out of a leaf. Well, that is the problem. Nirup has not yet reached that position. Even as Puneeth Rajkumar’s voice (as the Rajaratha bus) reminds us from time-to-time as to what is going on, Nirup’s screen presence does not automatically turn into moments of awesomeness for the fans of the actor to go berserk with the whistles. This is only his second film and he has a long way to go before the front-benchers fill the theatres with ear-shattering claps and noises.

And, in spite of Anup’s writing dipping a bit, his songs are as sparkly as ever. I sincerely hope that Anup, Nirup and Avantika join forces together in the near future for another film and give us something more to nibble on.

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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2018 19:46:12 IST

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