Does it really matter if it’s a good film by a critic’s standards? Simpal Ag Ondh Love Story is a big hit with youngsters

The sprawling mall was crawling with college-going kids with backpacks early on a weekday morning. They were all lounging around, some digging into ‘tiffin’ carriers lovingly packed by indulgent mothers. Aren’t exams round the corner? Is this a day trip arranged by the college? Even as I was wondering they trooped towards a screen in the multiplex showing the latest Kannada release, ‘Simpal Ag Ondh Love Story’.

As I swaggered nonchalantly towards the box-office I was told the tickets were sold-out. Believe me I cannot remember the last time I had to pull strings to buy a ticket for a Kannada film on the morning of a weekday, even when the film boasted of marquee names. I was probably the only grey haired guy in the entire hall. The rest were young couples cuddling or texting multiple suitors.

I met a producer the day on the day ‘SAOLS’ was released and was surprised when he jubilantly declared the film was a super-hit even though his film released a couple of weeks back was limping. How had he decided? “Well, the film got a phenomenal opening and those who watched it liked the film,” he said. The house-full boards on the first day for a nondescript film shocked the industry especially when stars are struggling to woo their fans.

The industry had obviously underestimated the power and reach of internet. The directors and the cast depended on visiting various TV channels praising themselves and their work. It makes sense in a way because most viewers may not have access to the information highway. I think it worked for this film because it’s youth centric. Teasers have been on the net for quite some time. The promos had a good looking couple in lush surroundings mouthing smart one-liners bordering on double entendre. But again no amount of publicity, good or bad can save a terribly made film. The success of ‘SAOLS’ shows that it has struck a chord with the youth which most filmmakers find frustratingly elusive. It’s already being touted as a mini ‘Mungaru Male’ as far as the box-office is concerned.

The film should have been called ‘Vata Vata’ which in colloquial Kannada means non-stop chatter. The protagonists suffer from acute verbal diarrhoea and never tire of trading a volley of one-liners which are mostly smart but sometimes silly.

The lead pair talks normally only when reminiscing about past romances. Now sustaining a film mostly on a conversation between the lead pair is easier said than done. It’s not entirely like ‘Before Sunrise’. Characters like the hero’s sister and his cronies do pop in but briefly.

To his credit the director Suni does sustain viewer interest with timely tweaks. This is today’s youth. They don’t try to hide their past. Every emotion is laid threadbare. There’s not a trace of bitterness when past affairs are recollected. Surprisingly, there’s empathy and understanding. Thankfully, there’re no overbearing parents, nosy aunts and jealous friends. When the hero tells heroine that characters in ‘Bandana’ and ‘Mungaru Male’ were also called Nandini and their love went unrequited you expect the worst but obviously it’s a ploy. There’s a pleasant twist in the end, probably an afterthought. The only discordant note is an unnecessary cameo by Srinagara Kitty.

The casting of the lead pair is a feather in director Suni’s cap especially since we have to watch them for the entire length of the talkathon. Rakshith and Shwetha make a pleasant couple. Rakshith is terrific.

His casual demeanour sans any mannerism is endearing. Shwetha makes an ideal foil though she looks affected in a few scenes. RJ Rachna as the hero’s sister has a pleasant presence. The cinematographer’s job is made easy by the lush, rain-soaked locales in Coorg. The songs are pleasant while the background score sounds cluttered.

The multi-tasking Suni has shown enterprise and also how to keep things simple. He has worked under Dinesh Babu but has imbibed the style of Yograj Bhat.

The film fraternity will rush to watch ‘SAOLS’ simply to try and figure out the elusive formula Suni’s film is based on. Expect another slew of films with rain and romance. If you are the curious kind who likes to eavesdrop on a young couple in love ‘SAOLS’ is the ideal film.