While the Kannada crowd is flocking the theatres to watch Oggarane, they have not taken to Drishya, which is a well-made film

The much-awaited monsoon may be playing truant, but it’s raining remakes in Kannada cinema. Malayalam cinema seems to be suddenly much in demand. Producers seem to be flying to Kochi more often than Hyderabad and Chennai these days. Superstars shy away from doing Malayalam remakes because the male protagonist in their films plays a normal person. They don’t dress like a dandy, break into a song at inopportune moments and bash up a band of baddies who conveniently approach one at a time. You have to find a second rung star or someone who’s over the hill. In fact, Malayalam cinema was anathema as far as remakes were concerned because our own filmmakers felt Kannada audiences were intellectually inferior. Can someone consuming peanuts for years suddenly appreciate almonds? The common refrain is, ‘our audiences will not understand subtlety’. Fact is that Kannada audiences were the most discerning and democratic in the entire country. But then that was when we had filmmakers of the calibre of G.V. Iyer, Girish Karnad and the maverick Putanna Kanagal to name a few. They didn’t treat viewers like nincompoops nor did they depend on marquee names. They didn’t feel insecure when films made by Raj Kapoor, K. Balachander or K. Vishwanath were released. They watched them and notes were exchanged. Content was king. Audiences eagerly awaited the next Putanna release. Kamal says KB would travel to Bangalore, watch the new Puttanna release and wring his hands in healthy, creative jealousy. The taste of audiences clearly reflects the caliber of the filmmakers. We no longer have good, leave alone great directors. We have efficient Xerox machines.

‘Salt ‘N Pepper’ was a delightful Malayalam film about absolute strangers bonding over food and falling in love. ‘Oggarane’ the Kannada version starring Prakash Raj is a sleeper hit even though the Tamil and Telugu versions are what in filmi parlance called ‘washout’, commercially. Prakash, who’s also directed the film hasn’t changed much, to be fair. I think one of the main reasons the film has succeeded here is that food is discussed fervently when friends meet, especially in Bangalore. That doesn’t happen anywhere else. Saliva gushes out when there are arguments about where the best ‘masala dose’ is made. Now that’s not the only reason. The success of the film also proves that our audiences have good taste. I always believe that for Kannadigas, their choice of films and food is co-related. Their tastes are simple but will visit a theatre or an eatery only after it’s been endorsed by people they rely on. Families who haven’t ventured into theatres for years are flocking multiplexes. You also have to appreciate Prakash’s choice of film for a remake. It’s not one of those mindless Telugu enterprises. The success of the film also dispels the absolutely banal theory that Ilayaraja’s music doesn’t work in Kannada. How can you blame the garnishing when the food is bad? Listen to the maestro’s magical score when a delectable cake is being baked.

Ravichandran seems to have made the transition to playing ‘father characters’ effortlessly. ‘Drishyam’ was the most coveted Malayalam film in the remake market. About a father who protects his daughter who’s inadvertently killed a Police chief’s son, the intelligently made film raked it in. ‘Drishya’, the Kannada version is pretty faithful. It’s the acting that’s a bit theatrical. Unnecessary comedy is infused by way of Sadhu Kokila. “The way we act is the way we are. Telugu and Tamil people are more animated and emotional,” said Mohanlal when I asked him about his style of acting. It rings true when you watch remakes. Ravichandran is effective as the father who fights with brains rather than brawn. You’ll like the film if you haven’t watched the original. The first half does make you want to fast forward the proceedings but the engrossing latter half more than makes up. ‘Drishya’ is not as big a hit as ‘Oggarne’ but is doing steady business. The producers are hoping that the positive ‘word of mouth’ publicity will attract families. ‘Bangalore Days’ is another Malayalam film that’s been doing well in Bangalore for awhile. The Tamil rights have already been snapped up. Can Kannada be far behind?

sshivu@yahoo.com