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'Happy Birthday' review: An excuse for a launch

A scene from the movie.

A scene from the movie.

Director: Mahesh Sukhadare

Cast: Sachin, Samskruthi Shenoy, Achyuth Kumar, Rajesh Nataranga, Chikkanna

That Mahesh Sukhadare’s Happy Birthday is a launch pad for Sachin, son of JDS leader and former minister Cheluvarayaswamy, could not be more obvious in the film. The film has been produced by Cheluvarayaswamy’s family. The character that Sachin plays (also named Sachin) is from Nagamangala in Mandya, which is his father’s constituency. There are repeated references and encomiums directed at Mandya, its geography and people. And towards the end, Sachin is endorsed by ‘Rebel Star’ Ambareesh who says, “ Naanu Mandyada gandu, ivanu muttina chandu” and asks Kannadigas across the State to bestow their love on Sachin.

Somewhere amidst this is a semblance of a story, which if traced, one realises is quite ordinary. Sachin is a man who spends his days sitting idle and lives with his brother and his wife. He spots Anjali (Samskruthi Shenoy) one night and falls in love with her immediately. He then stalks her until she says she loves him too. Now, a conflict is imminent.

Anjali’s father, Veeraswamy (Achyuth Kumar), used to be a famous martial arts artist and has won many competitions during Mysore Dasara. But when Sachin meets him, he finds that Veeraswamy no longer practises his art and has turned an alcoholic. Veeraswamy’s story, the role Sachin plays in it and the consequences of this on Sachin’s relationship with Anjali form the rest of the story.

The narrative takes many breaks along the way to accommodate cringe-worthy comedy sequences that comprise characters trying to grope women and sleep with them forcibly. There are ample misogynistic dialogues to add to the trauma, including one in which the hero’s friend dissuades him from stalking Anjali by calling her a leg piece of a chicken and saying that he’ll find other such chickens to feast over.

The entire narrative is presented in the form of a flashback but the premise for this retelling is rather shaky. Sachin tells his story to a love-struck man who has set his mind on killing his lover after she says she does not want to be with him.

This man, on hearing Sachin’s story, has a change of heart, of course, but as the audience, you are wondering how the two stories have anything in common at all.

With the Mysuru Dasara at the backdrop, themes of saving the honour of the family, a patriarch’s responsibilities etc., are repeatedly highlighted even though they appear grossly archaic and outdated.

The camera work consists of dramatic shots full of sudden movements accompanied with loud and jarring sounds.

There are a few songs that offer a welcome break but they cannot do much to make up for a poor narrative. The dialogues are set in the dialect of the region. With a stiff body language, Sachin can barely act or emote. Samskruthi saves the film partially with her performance. Achyuth Kumar and Rajesh Nataranga do what they can within their roles.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2022 8:39:11 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-reviews/Happy-Birthday-review-An-excuse-for-a-launch/article14593199.ece