A year since his untimely death, Kannada icon Puneeth Rajkumar is once again glittering on the big screen and offering some emotional moments to his fans in Gandhada Gudi. Appu, as he is popularly known in Karnataka, redefines the meaning of a ‘true hero’ in this film through an unforgettable journey into the breathtaking forests, oceans, flora, and fauna of Karnataka. He treks the length and breadth of Karnataka, from Nagarahole to the Kali river, along with National Award-winning wildlife filmmaker Amoghavarsha.
The title of the film could not be more apt. It has a long association with the Rajkumar family, and also means ‘the abode of Sandalwood’. When rampant sandalwood smuggling threatened the valuable forest wealth in the early 70s, actor-producer M P Shankar, who was known for making films on forest-related stories, produced Gandhada Gudi, a film directed by Vijay in which Dr Rajkumar portrayed the role of an honest forest officer.The film, which was Rajkumar’s 150th, was known to be the first Kannada mainstream movie made on the concept of the protection of forests and wildlife conservation. The film became a blockbuster with a 25 weeks-run in the theatres, and this led to a sequel in 1995 titled Gandhada Gudi Part 2 in which Rajkumar made a brief appearance as well. The sequel was also directed by Vijay, with Shivarajkumar in the lead role as a forest officer, continuing the mission of his father from the first part.
Gandhada Gudi (Kannada)
Now, through this 2022 release Gandhada Gudi, viewers will get a glimpse of the real Puneeth, without all the glitz and glamour. Further, it’s also special because this will be the last time the fans will get to see Appu on the big screen.The non-fiction docu-drama follows Puneeth’s exploration into Karnataka, to talk about the ecosystem of the state.
Significantly, like a regular feature film, it has drama and emotions, and entertains the audience all throughout its 98-minute runtime. Through the lens of Prateek Shetty, Amoghavarsha shows Karnataka’s bio-diversity wealth from a fresh perspective. For the star he is, had Puneeth could have made this into a commercial potboiler, but this film only testifies to his love and passion for pure and honest cinema, without any commercial interest.
Beginning at the Nagarhole National Park, the film then takes its course like a river to show a closer look at the beauty of the state. It then takes us through Gajanurum BR Hills, places in coastal Karnataka and the Deccan, the Tungabhadra river, and Malenaadu. It ends at Kushavali, the birthplace of the Kali river. Both Puneeth and Amoghavarsha offer the audience a closer look at the beautiful natural wild locales, and trek through the rough terrain and listen to the unfamiliar sound of nature. Through their journey, the audience gets a lesson or two on the urgent need to preserve natural resources and sustainable development. Importantly, the way these lessons are communicated isn’t preachy, but intertwined with the humour that Puneeth was always known for.
As expected, the centrifugal point of Gandhada Gudi is Puneeth; he surprises his fans with his child-like curiosity for nature, like when he watches the elephants and tigers roam freely in the wild. Puneeth adorns every frame, whether it is the actual adventure or a flashback sequence.
This film can also be viewed as an intimate account of two friends on a trek. In total, Gandhada Gudi is a visual spectacle of the biodiversity of Karnataka for the audience. Cinematographer Prateek Shetty, through his startling visuals, and Ajneesh Loknath, with his background score, elevate the docu-drama into an epic film on the ecology of Karnataka. It is the kind of film that every child in Karnataka will remember for a lifetime. Moreover, it ensures that Puneeth’s fans will remember the actor with joy and maybe imbibe some of his qualities into their lives.
Gandhada Gudi is currently running in theatres