Wonder how Googly became a box-office hit, and Jayammana Maga is rather engaging

Kannada cinema seems to be on a roll in the last few months at least. Three films of different genres have hit the bulls-eye at the box-office, the biggest being ‘Googly’. Nothing new has been tried though with the filmmakers remaining faithful to tested formulae if ever there were some. ‘Different’ is a word that directors utter often without adhering to it practically. It takes gumption to veer off the oft trodden path. Kannada audiences have learnt not to expect anything earthshaking. They have been fed with so much tripe that anything slightly better than the mundane makes them happy.

‘Googly’ is the kind of film where if the protagonists confess their love for each other the film will get over in one reel. So even in today’s world you have them dithering and parting ways. Of course, fate brings them together and the emotional hide and seek continues till a predictable climax. I can understand there can only be so many ways to narrate a romance. Parent’s opposition is passé these days because nobody seems to seek their approval. The only other thorns should to be a jealous suitor or the fear of commitment. It can sometimes make the viewer weary till these obstacles are surmounted. Pawan Wadeyar is a Yograj Bhat protégé and so the film is pretty verbose with the hero’s emotional outpourings, which are either in a drunken stupor or just for the audience to know. There are the usual, irritating lines about what ‘love’ means to boys and girls. Now why am I dissecting what already has the producer laughing all the way to the bank? It’s purely to highlight the large-heartedness of Kannada film viewers. While the superstar troika of Darshan, Puneet and Sudeep are on their own trip choosing super-hits from other languages to remake the second rung consisting of Vijay, Yash and a couple of others need strong directors. Below that there’s sheer darkness because nothing else sells. What we need are directors who can break the star stranglehold and reinstate the fact that this is in fact a director’s medium. You don’t have to do anything different to be good.

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‘Duniya’ Vijay’s graph had taken a sharp Southside dive, professionally and personally. With successive failures and unsavoury appearances on TV accusing his estranged wife of ill-treating his parents, pundits had deemed his career dead. Not new to adversities, he chanelised his energies towards his production ‘Jayammana Maga’, introducing Vikas who’s worked with Suri and Yograj Bhat. Targeting women who he’s supposed to have alienated, ‘JM’ is pretty engaging probably because you’d ceased to expect anything other than risky stunts from him. What works for the film is that it’s unapologetically Chandamamaesque. It’s not tongue-in-cheek nor is it half-hearted. Vikas integrates revenge with good, bearable doses of hocus-pocus and voodoo. Now the good thing is that you don’t have to believe in such stuff to like it. The romance is pretty placid and Rangayan Raghu’s comedy is tragic which makes you wait for the devil and his deeds. Kalyani who plays Vijay’s mother and Raghav Uday as the sorcerer are first rate. The latter is especially a good find because there’s a paucity of good, menacing baddies in Kannada cinema. The film is thankfully not technically tacky and the climax where nine deities integrate is well executed. It’s good to see a young director like Vikas emerge from the shadow of his ‘Gurus’ and choose his own style. His next offering will be the acid test.

‘Victory’ was a winner even before it was released thanks to a TV channel paying an obscene, impractical and astronomical sum for future telecast rights. This is a grey area in cinema with absolutely no parameters and the film industry would grind to a halt if channels, for some reason stop buying films. The chief of a popular channel confessed that even though he started the price war he’s pulled out of the rat race because channels don’t recover the cost even over a period of five years. Producers first try to gauge how much their films will fetch even before planning a project or signing stars. The flipside is that stars pitch their salary depending on how much a channel will pay. I’m pretty sure the production cost of ‘Victory’ is lesser than what the channel has paid (a little more than two crore rupees) which means they have financed the film, interest free and the producer laughs all the way to the bank with the theatrical profits. The channel in turn will have to woo advertisers when they telecast the film which believe me is no mean task.

sshivu@yahoo.com