A look at K.S. Ashoka's 'Dia', the most interesting Kannada film of 2020

Thought it has not received the rapturous response of the director's earlier ‘6-5=2’, this new release starring Pruthvi Amber and Kushi deserves plaudits for its acting and writing

There are times when you wonder where some directors who made a promising debut disappear. Some don’t live up to the flair they exhibited. I kept wondering where K.S. Ashoka was since he made his sensational debut with ‘6-5=2’. An engineer turned director, another who did not want to be confined to a cubicle, Ashok’s film made on a measly budget went on to collect some crores. It was every producer’s dream. The director kept you riveted for 110 minutes with an amalgam of fact, fiction friendship and fiends. There was just a hint of romance, no songs and in a nutshell a film with thrills sans frills. The film was inspired by ‘The Blair Witch Project’ but was not modified to suit local sensibilities as the common excuse goes. Ashok is the typical fanatic turned filmmaker. His family too was harried about his throwing up a job that paid handsomely and regularly for the unknown like his characters entering the forests. He did join a course in script writing first. ‘6-5=2’ is a film that worked purely because of the best form of publicity, ‘word of mouth’.

I remember it was Ramesh Arvind who called from Chennai and asked me to check out the film. The budget or the lack of it was not a deterrent to the quality. A lot of effort did go into the making with plenty of trips to locate the perfect terrain and if the acting looked effortless it was thanks to relentless rehearsals. Success can change things overnight. The unknown face who’d visit celebrities to help release his film was a known name overnight. Producers queued up because he was perceived as a director who could convert lakhs into crores. “I think attaining success is relatively easy. Maintaining it is difficult,” the mild mannered Ashok had told me. Fact is the second film of a successful director is the acid test. The expectations are manifold and simply zeroing in on a suitable story is an arduous task. Ashok did not hastily try and cash in on his overnight success but seems to have taken a tad too long to follow up. It’s seven years since he made his dream debut.


The sensibilities of a director are not only reflected in the plot but also the aesthetics, the sets, attire and the tone of the emotions. It’s a role reversal here. The heroine for a change is smitten at first sight. Traces of this was seen in the terrific ‘Gantu Mute’ recently. The initial sequences are delightful, watching her bottle up her emotions, rehearsing how she would introduce herself but mortified at the prospect. It’s not stalking simply because he seems to be unaware of her existence. A lot of thought has gone into the twists in the plot as well as eschewing clichés.

The film is full of good people tossed around by tumultuous situations not in their control like death and torn apart by conflicting emotions, recognized but not accepted. Its estrangement, even temporary more than togetherness that makes one recognize true emotional equations. The introduction of another character who tries to wean heroine away from her suicidal tendencies and bring some sunshine into her life perks up proceedings. Now nothing in the film is new or path-breaking. It’s the handling of seemingly predictable situations, the characters reactions and the pithy lines they speak that makes it stand out. You can see a lot of thought and deliberation has gone into the writing. The pace that seems leisurely picks up.

 Surprisingly, there are no conflicts or showdown which would result in a tame, predictable climax. Now this seems to have put Ashok in a quandary. I’m sure there was a lot of opposition to the way Ashok decided to end the film and most probably by the producer. How people accept the end will decide the films fate at the box-office. They might have shot an acceptable end too just in case! I wish the film does well just to prove that cinema is not an escape from reality but reiteration that life is sometimes stranger.

The acting is first rate, especially Kushi and Pruthvi. Pavithra Lokesh is all grace and poise in a beautifully written role. The background score is pleasant with no songs slowing down the proceedings, something unique in a romantic film. Again, like most of our films, we really don’t know what the character played by Pruthvi does other than lending his shoulder to the shattered heroine. I wish Dia had shown some apprehension before taking a bike ride again especially after her life changing accident.

Also, no effort is made to track down the perpetrator of a fatal collision. The climax in a film is crucial and could have been executed more effectively, not how it happens but the staging. It’s abrupt rather than sudden. 'Dia' is still the most interesting Kannada film released this year. It’s not received the rapturous response that ‘6-5=2’ did, but I hope the good word that an earnestly-made Kannada film is showing spreads fast. Even that is a rarity these days.


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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:42:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/a-look-at-ks-ashokas-dia-the-most-interesting-kannada-film-of-2020/article30811034.ece

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