Pushpaka Vimana (Kannada)
Director: S. Ravindranath
Cast: Ramesh Aravind, Yuvina Parthavi, Rachita Ram
Not just the story, there is a lot more in S. Ravindranath’s Pushpaka Vimana that aspires to be identical to Lee Hwan-kyung’s South Korean tearjerker Miracles in Cell No. 7 (2013). A majority of the film is in fact a frame-by-frame remake of the original. However, there is one aspect of the Korean film that did not make it to this Kannada re-creation: an element of subtlety.
Granted that Miracles in Cell No. 7 is indeed an overly sentimental tale too. The story is of a young girl’s search for closure years after her differently-abled father is wrongly sentenced in a crime. She tells us his story, reliving it before us, in an attempt to clear his name.
But there is something more understated about the original film, especially its performances. Well, at least in contrast to Pushpaka Vimana. Ravindranath’s film tends to exaggerate moments instead of downplaying them — whether it is the relationship between the father and daughter or the sequences in jail.
It relies heavily on dialogue focussing more on telling rather than showing , at times even screaming the sentiment at its audience. The tragedy of this method of narration is that we get no time to discover the characters for ourselves. They remain at a distance even towards the end, despite the director’s overt attempts at creating tearjerker moments.
The monologue by Rachita Ram who plays the grown-up daughter, Puttu, towards the end of the film is full of dramatic and clichéd lines that announce the qualities of a father-figure, something that we are given little chance to explore for ourselves.
The screenplay of Pushpaka Vimana is often simplistic — whether it is how easily Anantharamaiah (Ramesh Aravind) gets branded a criminal or how he forges a strong bond with fellow inmates in jail or even how easily his daughter is sneaked into jail. Cinematically, these are moments that hold potential for intrigue and drama, but Ravindranath quickly crosses these moments. The idea is to focus solely on the bond between the father and daughter but here again stagy performances make it difficult to relate to the characters. The film also demands that you take ample breaks from logic. This, especially with legal procedures depicted in the film. The idea of closure too is treated quite literally in PushpakaVimana while in Miracles... it is more nuanced.
The underlying theme of an escape is apparent — whether it is in the father-daughter duo’s fascination for airplanes or the trapping of all the characters in a jail. But amidst the cacophony of loud dialogues, humour and acting, this idea is barely nourished or explored deeply. A beautiful moment in the film is when Anantharamaiah, in the middle of a jail break attempt, comes out of the trunk of a car because he hears an airplane flying above the jail’s entrance and wants to celebrate it. We needed more of those moments in the film.
The song featuring Juhi Chawla seems entirely out of place and unnecessary. But otherwise, music by Charan Raj offers the much-needed reprieve, anchoring the narrative in the locale and conveying a lot more emotion too. Ironically, this sense of the region does not come across through the cinematography of the film. The film seems more focused on looking extremely slick and stylish.
It is Ramesh Aravind’s 100th film. The effort that has gone into crafting his performance is sometimes a little too apparent. His version of the ‘ever elsewhere’ and naive Anantharamaiah is mostly melodramatic and borders on a caricature.
The letdown of Pushpaka Vimana is that it tells you that it is telling you a heart-breaking tale. One only wished it showed one instead.