We've seen the representation of holy trinity in various films across industries and multiple genres for decades now. While some films have clearly gone out of their way to make the thematic choice obvious rather than actually giving it some purpose, some have turned out to be benchmark milestones in cinema. The most obvious example of The Matrix comes to mind, a film that changed cinema forever. Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, the new Kannada film from the powerhouse of talent that is Raj B. Shetty, follows the story of three central characters – Shiva (the destroyer), Hari (the saviour) and Brammayya, the creator. But don't you worry; even though the naming of characters couldn't be more obvious, the sheer skill of filmmaking on display here truly establishes it as one of those benchmark films.
But what happens when the trio turns against each other, engaging in a fight unto death? The story in the film is narrated by a police official Brahmayya. After he's transferred to Mangalore as a sort of punishment for speaking to his daughter while on duty, he finds himself under a pile of deep-rooted corruption and crime. But since Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana is a gangster drama, there's more to it. However, unlike most Indian gangster films that also pretend to be a drama, this one truly places its subjects in context. The creative energy in the movie never really dulls down and peaks during its unpredictable, yet brilliant last act.
Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana masters the visual storytelling aspect of film. Notice how Hari's eyes follow Shiva, before things start going down. Soon, that same melting look of Hari is directed to someone else; an aspect that has both thematic and narrative purpose as it lays down the deep sociopolitical commentary that's at the center of the film. The comparisons to City Of God are inevitable, but this film manages to pull off a distinct visual style; Praveen Shriyan's cinematography carries the unparalleled weight of emphasising objects that later go on to become the key in propelling the narrative forward, while also feeling hermetic. There's also the sequence everyone seems to be talking about – the vigorous pili vesha scene that speaks to a deeper cultural significance.
The movie doesn't tell us of the growing resentment between Hari and Shiva; we witness Hari's affection soon turn into distaste through a intricately laid chain of events. In the long lasting list of morally repugnant characters, these two standout in the careful treatment that goes on to become an allegory for something larger. Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana adds a fresh dose into the over-exhausted gangster genre in the country. There's some unnecessary use of jump-cuts here and there but most of the cinematic tools it borrows from different waves in modern cinema, are seamlessly used which leads it to one of the most haunting final acts I've watched in a film lately. The distinctiveness and eloquence of the film is ultimately a testimony to the gifts of Raj B. Shetty, the young breakthrough talent in Kannada cinema, and the crew. Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana stands as a testament to the fact that great art can still be born as long as the vision behind it remains fresh and visually rich, even when beneath it all it's an archetype for something that's thousands of years old.