After a good 2018 when the Kannada film industry dabbled with a range of genres, 2019 has been pretty quiet. The high point was Kannada films winning richly at the National Film Awards. This year scored high on thrillers, but it’s been laidback on the action and masala fronts. Here’s a listing of this year’s best films.
With curly hair, a pair of curious eyes, and a tongue that cannot stop itself from making sarcastic comments every now and then, Detective Diwakar (Rishab Shetty) is equipped to put a full stop to the crimes being committed in his small town. But since he’s a police constable, nothing much lies in his hands. When the opportunity to solve a big case knocks on his door, he gets ready to wear trench coats and hats. His new look might not help him theoretically; however, it puts him on a par with the fictional detectives he grew up watching on screen. Bell Bottom is one for the ages!
Director: Hemanth Rao
Like Bell Bottom, Kavaludaari is also a thriller, with a traffic cop (played by Rishi) as the protagonist. Here, the cop is more interested in reopening an old case, but he faces too many obstacles. Guiding him on his journey is a retired cop (played by Anant Nag), who has scores of stories to narrate to the rookie. The chemistry between these two characters is unhurried and filled with respect. While the young cop looks at the older gentleman with reverence, the latter doesn’t dismiss the former’s points at any juncture citing lack of insight. There are give-and-take conversations that’ll calm your nerves.
Director: P. Sheshadri
To turn a classic novel – that too one that has won the Jnanpith Award – into an art-house film is no mean task. Director P. Sheshadri makes this largely dialogue-heavy movie work by focussing on the Ajji’s (grandmother) ability to decipher the secrets resting in the objects and people that she comes in contact with. The movie doesn’t depend on a single incident, and moves from one interesting topic to another, covering the subjects of adultery, theft, religious wars and spirituality. No other Kannada actor could have possibly come close to veteran B Jayashree’s performance, and what she brings to the table as the famed ajji has to be seen to be believed.
Visualised by Rishab Shetty; 7 directors
Anthologies are usually a mixed bag, but this bag includes some areas that Kannada cinema rarely ventures into. From magical realism to a comedy drama that doesn’t go the tried-and-tested way, the seven stories in this movie take you to different places in Karnataka and leave you asking for more. While some shorts are absolute crowd-pleasers, some open the door for experimentation in the longer format. We need more such anthologies to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the parallel, so that it becomes easier for the audience to choose the battles they want to be a part of.
Director: Roopa Rao
Never has there been a film like Gantumoote that presents a coming-of-age story from the eyes of its female lead. Since the female gaze itself is a topic that not many filmmakers have explored in India, this movie naturally becomes a benchmark for other such tales that fall in this category. When was the last time you saw a young schoolgirl debate about the meaning of dagaar (hoe in Kannada) and make peace with the consequences for a mistake she hasn’t committed? I presume, never! As much as Gantumoote is about the desires of teenagers, it’s also about how the girl grows up and faces the bullets fired at her.