Idolle Ramayana: A simple, yet effective remake

Idolle Ramayana (Kannada)

Direction: Prakash Rai

Cast: Prakash Rai, Priyamani, Achyut Kumar, Rangyana Raghu, Arvind Kupplikar, Sudha Belwadi

Remakes are generally not held in high regard in the Kannada film industry. Often lacking in creativity, almost every remake gets dismissed as a photocopy of the original. However, there are some that offer a unique vision and help viewers discover a new appreciation of a classic narrative.

Case in point: Shutter - a 2012 Malayalam thriller written and directed by Joy Mathew. Owing to the critical and commercial success the film enjoyed, it was remade in Marathi as Shutter (2014) and Tamil as Oru Naal Iravil (2015). Now, actor-director Prakash Rai has remade Shutter as Idolle Ramayana in Kannada and Mana Oori Ramayanam in Telugu. Rai essays the lead role in both versions. Four national award recipients, namely Priyamani, music composer Ilayaraja, art director Shashidhara Adapa and editor Sreekar Prasad, join Rai, and help make a strong case for why a story like Shutter ought to be retold in different languages.

Rai has made significant changes to the script . For those who have not watched the original , Idolle Ramayana offers a different experience, as it is rooted in nativity. A simple story, paced like a ‘moral suspense thriller’, the film shows unexpected incidents that happen over two days and a night in a small town in coastal Karnataka. It centers around the mess created by a Gulf-returned Mangalorean (Rai), a film director (Achyut Kumar) and an autorickshaw driver (Arvind Kupplikar), after they meet a strange woman (Priyamani) under critical circumstances.

The film shows how an individual balances the good and bad within oneself. It depicts how a person’s ‘real’ self emerges, often when he or she is alone or dealing with a problem. It also makes a criticism of the common ‘black and white thinking’ people have.

A middle-aged filmmaker, trying his best to get the dates of a superstar, forgets one of his film scripts in an autorickshaw. The autorickshaw driver, Shivu, who also works as an errand boy for the rich, Gulf-returned Bhujangaiah, has his sights set on leaving the country. He hopes to get a visa with Bhujangaiah’s help. One of Shivu’s jobs is to get liquor for Bhujangaiah and his friends at the end of the day, when they take part in a ‘village drama’ in an empty shop opposite Bhujangaiah’s house.

On this particular day, Bhujangaiah decides to get more drinks and gets into Shivu’s autorickshaw to buy drinks. On the way, he feels the urge for ‘something more than the liquor after seeing Susheela (Priyamani) and insists Shivu to get her on board. Subsequently, Shivu locks both them of in the empty shop. The film takes several turns when Shivu leaves to get food for Susheela. Better watch the twists and turns to get feel of ‘real Ramayana’. The film is aptly titled as Idolle Ramayana, as the story is set in the backdrop of Ramanavami.

Rai, as Bhujangaiah, leaves an indelible impression. Priyamani puts up a noteworthy performance and Achyut Kumar and Arvind breathe life into their characters. Art director Shashidhara Adapa steals the show with the authentic film sets, right from Bhujangaiah’s shop and the almost palpable atmosphere of Ramanavami in the town.

Idolle Ramayana is Rai’s third directorial venture. His first was Naanu Nanna Kanasu – a remake of the Tamil film Abhiyum Naanum directed by Radha Mohan – and his second was Oggarane, a remake of the Aashiq Abu directed Malayalam movie Salt N’ Pepper. Rai’s efforts are commendable. He attempts a retelling of some of the best stories from other languages to the Kannada film audience, unlike others who get caught up with remaking commercial blockbusters ‘shot by shot’.

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