Director: Dr Raghavendra BS
Cast: Prem Kumar, Brinda Acharya, Aindrita Ray, Sadhu Kokila and Anand
Where do I even begin? Should I be delighted that I now know the medical term for broken heart syndrome (takotsubo cardiomyopathy) or that there is a way in which one can beat Bengaluru's traffic and drive to scenic Malnad in the time it takes someone to be wheeled into the labour room and be delivered of a baby? That I am coherent enough to think these things after three hours of relative agony is something I am mighty chuffed about.
Here's a film, supposedly a love story, with its intent in the right place, allowing the script to drag it all over the place, and the audience too, in the process. It is directed by a doctor, Raghavendra BS, and so the hospital scenes are sprinkled with medical jargon, and terms related to cardiology, because our hero Dr Sri Hari (played by 'Lovely Star' Prem. This is his 25th film) is also one. He has such a fan following among his junior doctors, they appear juvenile as they praise him to his face — dynamic, energetic, kind — and he swats it off like they're just over-enthusiastic flies.
But, but, he has a backstory. And, it takes a supremely irritating patient Yojitha (Aindrita Ray, who is completely wasted in a role that demands very little of her), who comes in with palpitations, but ends up coochie cooing with him to flick a diary from his room and narrate to us a story in flashback. Is it so easy to visit a top doctor (as the film says) and sneak into his room and come out with his diary? Shoo, don't ask for logic.
And so you get yanked into a love story that's not quite one. This is almost akin to Kamal Haasan's by-now-legendary Guna line, 'Idhu manitha kaadhal alla, adhayum thaandi punidhamaanadhu'(This is not mere mortal love, it is holy beyond that). Sri Hari hails from Mandya and the village bigwig is nudged by his wife to educate the boy from an underprivileged background. We see his father and mother in a couple of scenes, and that is that, before they are conveniently bumped off. While waiting for anatomy class to begin, he sees a classmate (Brinda Acharya, who is quite nice in some scenes) rush in late, and his heart flutters. Now, link it to Takotsubo in para one.
That girl is Sheryln Pinto from Chikmagalur. He almost worships her, won't shake hands with her, or hug her, because only her husband gets that privilege. But, he cannot be stopped from asking her to wear a bindi (the film is set in the early 2000s, before hashtags became a thing) or asking for her dupatta as a gift (girl, red flag, run for your life). She blushes, and insists, 'You're mad.' Sometimes I wonder if she was directing it at us, the audience.
Is Sri Hari a certified stalker, approaching her at church and visiting her everywhere? Or is he just confused about his feelings for her? He's very clear that a Gowda from Mandya and a Pinto from Chikmagalur have very little chance together, but then, this is divine love, etc.
This film takes place over nearly three hours, with frequent song breaks. You know who wins in this film? Naveen Kumar, the cinematographer. The end credits also list Munnar and Darjeeling, and the locales lend so much atmosphere to a film that's part brooding and pensive, and part happy. The second winner is Raghavendra in his composer avatar. The film has 12 songs, and while all of them are pleasant, one or two might become earworms with repeat listening. Small mercy that the hero is not all macho and tough, but has it in him to blush and cry.
Yojitha has done her flashback and then Sri Hari meets his Angel again, this time when he's recovering from his broken heart. You can see the climax from a mile, but you don't mind it, because, oh lord, that landscape is so so scenic.
Sheryln now has two children and a third is on the way, because Sri Hari once read her palm and said she'd have three children. But before you can ask her who has three children in this day and age, Sri Hari only asks her that. He's very helpful, like that.
You actually feel bad for Prem, who is usually quite the romantic hero on screen. His 25th film deserved better, and the director needed to use him better.
The hostel scenes are a scream, and not in a nice way. There are people who don't look anything like medical students, and the humour, spearheaded by Sadhu Kokila and Anand — falls flat in most places. Sadhu Kokila plays a man who loves both Dr Rajkumar and Rajinikanth and who plays both Kannada and Tamil songs, and the scene where he leaves the hostel after decades of failing the medical exam and finally passing is a hoot, thanks to the background score — 'Vidukathaiya Intha Vazhkai' from Rajinikanth-starrer Muthu.
There are a couple of bonds in the film that stand out — between Sri Hari and his prospective father-in-law who he's never met — most of their conversations are in the cemetery — and between him and Lord Jesus. In a romance film, two totally non-romantic bonds stand out. Enough said!