Language: Kannada

Cast: Haripriya, Sumalatha

Director: Shankar

Parvathamma is a powerful name in the Kannada film industry, for it brings to mind the Rajkumar family. Rajkumar’s sons—Shiva and Puneeth—are still amongst the top stars of Karnataka. Even Raghavendra, who had stayed away from the limelight for fifteen years, made a comeback earlier this year with Ammana Mane. If you ask me where the late Parvathamma fits amidst these names, I’d point you to the several films she had produced over five decades, featuring her husband and sons. So, naturally, her name has a nostalgic effect amongst scores of Kannada film-goers. But that has got nothing to do with this week’s release, D/o Parvathamma, which stars Sumalatha in the title role.

After having won a fierce battle at the recently concluded Lok Sabha election (in Mandya), she’s back on the big screen as a single mother who pressurises her older daughter, Vaidehi (Haripriya), to get married. The mother-daughter conversations that are a part of this movie can take place at any home in India, but what’s fascinating is that Parvathamma doesn’t tell Vaidehi to focus on her personal life alone, or blame her work for not showing any interest in getting hitched.

Vaidehi isn’t the one to ask for help from men to cross a street. She doesn’t pick up puppies and go, “Wow! So cute,” or dance in the rain. No, no, no! That’s not her. She rides bikes without a helmet, and beats up men who trouble her boyfriend. One might say that she’s channeling her inner Malashri; however, Haripriya is better here than the latter ever was.

Although, Vaidehi doesn’t wear a khaki uniform (she plays an officer who’s attached to the CB-CID wing), she comes across as a person you don’t want to mess with. Writer-director Shankar gives her some punch dialogues that are on par with what a male action star would get. The quality is the same, only the quantity has been brought down—instead of one every ten minutes, there’s one every half hour.

Mostly, the narrative straddles between the protagonist’s home life and her professional assignment where she’s tasked with solving a mystery. The autopsy report says that the victim (named Ahalya) committed suicide, but her parents believe that she was murdered. At the heart of the film, this particular case is quite captivating.

Writer-director Shankar gives her some punch dialogues that are on par with what a male action star would get. The quality is the same, only the quantity has been brought down  

Vaidehi and her team, which involves her sidekick, Gopal (Tharanga Vishwa), recreate the events that may have happened on the fateful night. She talks to Ahalya’s boyfriend, and a couple of other people to gather information regarding the bad elements of society she may have encountered. She goes through CCTV footage to get an idea behind the nature of the crime. Nevertheless, these pulp fiction elements appear without any baggage of the breathlessness that’s required in such scenarios.

This is neither a laugh-a-minute, race-against-the-clock like Bell Bottom (of which Haripriya is a part), nor is this set in a noirish world like Kavaludaari. The clues are all handed out in the beginning and the third act simply ties the knots together. That way, D/o Parvathamma isn’t an edge of the seat thriller. Vaidehi is also not obsessed with the case, and, as a result, the viewers who are waiting on the sidelines to run to the finish line aren’t metaphorically awarded for their meticulousness.

The trope of love interests, that doesn’t have any special effect on the overall outcome, has been retained for this thriller drama, too. Ananthu (Suraj Gowda) and Rajesh (Prabhu Mundkur) appear at different points of D/o Parvathamma as docile men. All it takes is just one act of kindness from the boys for Vaidehi to throw her heart at them. And the acts are something we’ve been seeing in Indian movies for 3-4 decades now. If Ananthu carries an old woman up the stairs of a temple, Rajesh puts a smile on the faces of a bunch of beggars by giving them food regularly.

I’m not against the thought of Vaidehi getting butterflies in her stomach, but it should be definitely more than these introductory acts of civility. For an officer who gets to the bottom of the cases she handles, she’s set the bar too low for the men she falls in love with. These are the kinds of problems that arise when the characters aren’t well-rounded.

For her part, though, Haripriya is sincere in her 25th Kannada film. She’s stayed on top of the charts since Prashanth Neel’s Ugramm, which released in 2014. She’s got some more films lined up for the second half of this year. And it looks like the only way she’ll go from here is…up.

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