Southern Lights: Wheatish Complexion, Average Build, Film Companion

Shiva is one of those harried urban professionals who’s always on a call, but when his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father, Venkob Rao, goes missing, Shiva finds he has to let go of work for a while. The story is about a son finding a father. The story is also about a son finding out about a father.

The relationship between Venkob Rao and Shiva is the relationship between many fathers and sons. In a wonderfully perceptive flashback early on, one that will make many fathers and sons in the audience grin sheepishly, Shiva comes home to find Venkob Rao watching a cricket match. (India need 330 runs to win – that’s 6.6 runs per over.) Shiva asks if his mother – a cancer patient, who’s in a reclining chair near the TV set – has eaten. Venkob Rao says, “No, I talked her into having some fruits. Then she felt tired and fell asleep.” Shiva seats himself in front of the TV set.

Venkob Rao says, “We have a chance of winning if Sachin plays well.”

Shiva says, without taking his eyes off the match, “He seems to be playing well. Our bowlers have been whacked.”

Venkob Rao says, “That Balaji doesn’t know what a yorker is! He kept bowling full tosses, and they kept scoring boundaries.”

Father and son actually seem to be talking – and then the power goes off. Shiva lights a candle. Venkob Rao says, slowly, “You told your mother you needed a laptop?” Typical. The son tells the mother. It’s left to the mother to tell the father.

Shiva says, “It’s not a problem. I have money from my part-time job. I’ll manage with that.”

A long pause. Venkob Rao asks, “When are your exam results?” Shiva says, “My exams are in June.” Again, typical. The father has very little clue about the son’s life.

Another long pause. Venkob Rao says, “We should get an emergency light.” Shiva says, “Emergency light can’t power a TV.”

Another long pause later, Shiva (who has, by now, a God-I-wish-I-were-anywhere-else expression) says, “I wonder what’s happening with the match. I just hope Sachin isn’t out.”

Suddenly we hear the mother. “I wonder what you two will talk about once Sachin retires.” Venkob Rao is startled. He says, “When did you wake up Pushpa?” She sighs and replies, “The silence between you both woke me up.” She adds, “Once I’m gone, I really don’t know how you both will live with each other.”

The title is, of course, from a missing-persons ad – but seen another way, that’s all Shiva knows about Venkob Rao, that his complexion is wheatish, that his height is average

This scene is from the 2016 Kannada drama Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu (Wheatish Complexion Average Build). The title is, of course, from a missing-persons ad – but seen another way, that’s all Shiva knows about Venkob Rao, that his complexion is wheatish, that his height is average. And through the course of the search, he finds out more. That his father’s courtship of his mother was anything but average. That his father smoked. At the same cigarette shop he stops to have a smoke.

The shop owner smiles at Shiva and says, “Like father, like son.” Shiva doesn’t understand. The man says, “Your father used to come here for a smoke before boarding his office bus… He would take quick puffs so that no one would see, and then leave.”

Shiva asks, “Why did you never tell me?”

The man says, “It’s a cigarette shop’s policy. I never told him about you and never told you about him.”

But did his father give him a kidney? That I’ll leave you to find out. The story synopsis of Godhi Banna may remind you of Rain Man (career-minded narcissist goes on a road trip with autistic older brother and forges a relationship) or the Marathi film Astu (a daughter searches for her missing father, who has Alzheimer’s). But the director, Hemanth Rao, throws gangsters into the mix. Also a slow-burn romance. Venkob Rao becomes the pivot around which these tracks revolve.

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I’ll leave you with a guilt trip foisted on Shiva by his father’s friend, who’s convinced that Venkob Rao would not have wandered off had he been in his own house instead of the nursing home Shiva put him in. “As a kid, when you used to pee and poop all over the place, he used to run behind you to clean up after you. He wasn’t your father then? And what of those thousand questions you pestered him with as a kid? All of which he answered patiently. Doesn’t that make him a father? Have you ever played with kids? Annoying brats! One has to do the most mindless things to make them happy. Poor guy. Despite slogging at work the whole day, he used to come home and play with you. That was his mistake. Forget that, if he had just left the gate open, you would’ve run off into some traffic, got run over and died.”

Shiva winces because the last bit, especially, cut too close. How did Venkob Rao wander off? Because Shiva, while dropping him off at the nursing home, left him unattended by a gate that was open.

Godhi Banna Sadharna Mykattu is available for streaming on hotstar.

Watch the trailer here:

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