‘Karataka Damanaka’ movie review: Shivarajkumar, Prabhu Deva add fun to this social drama

Yogaraj Bhat’s film, about two conmen saving a village, is an engaging ride until the predictable climax

Updated - March 08, 2024 04:38 pm IST

Published - March 08, 2024 03:49 pm IST

Shivarajkumar and Prabhu Deva in ‘Karataka Damanaka’

Shivarajkumar and Prabhu Deva in ‘Karataka Damanaka’ | Photo Credit: Rockline Entertainment/YouTube

Yogaraj Bhat, the pioneer of youthful romance in Kannada cinema post-2000s, ditched his pet genre for a social drama in Dana Kayonu (2016). Starring Duniya Vijay and Priyamani, the criminally underrated film explored the man-animal bond and globalisation against a village backdrop. With Karataka Damanaka, Bhat has made his second full-fledged film on a social theme.

The film revolves around the people of Nandikolu, a village suffering from drought and poor education facilities. It’s been ten years since the village festival, and the locals compare their place with a graveyard. Elsewhere, a jailer in Bengaluru sends two conmen (Shivarajkumar and Prabhu Deva) to the village to bring his adamant father to the city.

Somehow, the lives of the despondent villagers change for the better thanks to these fraudsters. The two try to win the trust of the people by going out of their way to help them get justice against a corrupt MLA (Rangayana Raghu) and his henchman (Ravi Shankar). Karataka and Damanaka are the names of the foxes from The Panchatantra collection of animal fables, and Shivarajkumar and Prabhu Deva play the cunning human versions of the foxes. The duo engages in deceptive activities that are hard to believe but strangely funny, which is typical of Bhat’s comic sense.

Karataka Damanaka (Kannada)
Director: Yogaraj Bhat
Cast: Shivarajkumar, Prabhu Deva, Nishvika Naidu, Priya Anand, Ravi Shankar
Runtime: 156 minutes
Storyline: A jailer sends two conmen to his village to convince and bring his adamant father to the city. But the fraudsters have other plans!

The first half stays focused on its central conflict, and even the three songs don’t interrupt the film’s rhythm. Rangayana Raghu and Ravi Shanker, often seen in loud characters, deliver controlled performances despite the lack of depth in their roles. Thankfully, the female leads (Priya Anand and Nishvika Naidu) aren’t in the plot without purpose, as Bhat sets up the plot nicely with less chaos and more engaging drama.

Prabhu Deva and Shivarajkumar strike a strong chemistry, but the former truly steals the show. It took many by surprise when Bhat cast Prabhu Deva for the project, but making his comeback to Kannada cinema after several years, the actor is hilarious as a goofy man with a penchant for generating humour at inappropriate moments. Meanwhile, the 61-year-old Shivarajkumar goes toe-to-toe with Prabhu Deva’s dance moves, and expectedly excels in the emotional scenes.

ALSO READ: ‘Kaatera’ and the future of family dramas in Kannada cinema

Bhat has written the screenplay and dialogues based on the story from Vikas, the director’s long-time collaborator. It’s a strange coincidence that a film on water conservation is out in theatres when Bengaluru is facing a water crisis!

However, the noble theme notwithstanding, Karataka Damanaka doesn’t move you too much. The utterly generic last act is the film’s biggest shortcoming. In the last 30 minutes, the jokes dry up, and the story moves ahead in a painfully straightforward manner. The predictable climax and the preceding long fight sequences rub salt into the wounds, and the film shows that even the most creative of directors can struggle to give proper closure to their ideas.

That said, it’s encouraging to see Bhat striving to be different, even after two decades in the industry, and Karataka Damanaka is a nice little comeback from the director after the forgettable Garadi in 2023. In this day and age, a reasonably good film is akin to walking on thin ice. Will the audience be kind to the filmmaker? Only time will tell.

Karataka Damanaka is currently running in theatres.

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