Director: Rohit Padaki
Cast: Raghu Mukherjee, Samyukta Hornad, Vasishta N Simha, Prakash Belawadi, Rajesh Nataranga, Sangeetha Bhat, Avinash Shatamarshan, Sukruta Wagle, Poornachandra Mysore, Bhavana Rao
Rohit Padaki’s Dayavittu Gamanisi (Your Attention Please) opens with a train pulling into a station, and the last scene shows a train leaving the station. The film is an anthology of four shorts, whose chapter titles (Whirlpool, Existence, Illusion, Decision) hint at something bigger, and sure enough, we get this nugget at the end: Life is a voyage. We should keep walking and the path will reveal itself. A song adds more “meaning”: “The Good… The Bad… The Old… The Young… Have all been served life on a hot platter. Pay attention or it will burn out. Your attention please!” The four stories converge at the climax, and you could see it as one hell of a coincidence — or, as I did, like a series of flashbacks that lead to that instant. In other words, the individual stories are a past life. This last scene is a rebirth, a makeover.
As with all anthologies, we get little echoes of events — the sense of a connection. The lead characters (all of them male) pour water on themselves — or get water thrown on them. The four stories also feature love and marriage as something that’s not guaranteed to bring happiness. Consider the second episode, about a thief named Proxy (Vasishta N Simha). He falls for a girl who fears an arranged marriage. She adds that a love marriage is like digging your own grave, but at least you know the depth. Like the theme, the characters, too, are existential. But not overly so. This girl wants to give up teaching and get into music full-time. This tiny revelation makes her a real person, not just a cog in the director's grand thesis.
Does it all add up? I don’t think it’s meant to. The model isn’t the novel but the short story — we get glimpses of lives
In another story, a woman Sanjana (Samyuktha Hornad) hits on a married techie (Raghu Mukherjee). He calls her a slut, but she later says she was molested as a child. Does it all add up? I don’t think it’s meant to. The model isn’t the novel but the short story — we get glimpses of lives. If there’s no closure, it’s because these characters are still searching — for a partner, or for answers in the case of a young godman (Avinash Shatamarshan) who becomes a documentary filmmaker’s subject. Like the leads in the other stories, he dreams about a woman. The female parts are written as unattainable, or maybe the word is illusory — they’re just out of reach.
Which is why the love songs (nicely tuned by J Anoop Seelin, who also contributes an unfussy score) feel wrong. Even as one-directional declarations of attraction, they make the feelings more concrete than they ought to be, than they actually are. The only song that feels right is the Purandaradasa composition in the first (and best) segment. The saint-composer’s entreaty to Lord Krishna (Kandu kandu ni enna) is transformed into a desperate father’s plea. The man wants to get his daughter married to Sathyanarayana (a terrific Rajesh Nataranga), a thirtysomething bachelor who doesn’t seem in a hurry to settle down. That this singleton becomes the equivalent of a god with thousands of wives is one of the film’s — and maybe life’s — amusing little ironies.
The stories are interesting, but they don’t come together with a satisfying snap. As with the recent Solo, the episodes can be viewed independently. But the little moments work. Like Sathyanarayana being told by the girl’s father (Prakash Belawadi, who’s wonderfully out there in a way that makes complete sense by the end of the episode) that she was married earlier, but is still a virgin. Or as he puts it, “Back to the pavilion without scoring.” In a way, Dayavittu Gamanisi can be seen as a more diffuse companion piece to Oru Naal Koothu, the Tamil drama woven around episodes of marriage. There, marriage was the goal. Here, it’s just one of many stations along the way. You get down, stretch a bit, look around, and get back on the train.
Watch the trailer of Dayavittu Gamanisi here: