Director: Tharun Kishore Sudhir
Cast: Darshan, Jagapathy Babu, Asha Bhat
The racer jacket and bandana that Darshan wears to bring out the finishing touches of his character, Roberrt, suit him well.
Roberrt looks like he’s always excited about going on long motorcycle trips with his drinking buddies. He even rides bikes that complement his tall and muscular frame. When you see him with machine guns, however, you’ll change your mind. He’s not going to sit down under the shade of a tree and write about his travels. He’s not a millennial either, who prefers to write the word “wanderlust” on his Twitter bio. He’s a gangster. The jacket and bandana are just some of the decorative extensions of his outwardly appearance—he even sports frizzy hair that sits on his head like an obedient student.
But before going to Roberrt, we have to get acquainted with Raghava first, for the film opens with the latter’s story.
Raghava (Darshan) works as a cook in Uttar Pradesh with an eclectic bunch of Kannadigas. Director Tharun Kishore Sudhir doesn’t introduce us to all of Raghava’s co-workers, as they aren’t too important. He gives us, nevertheless, a short tour of the large house that doubles up as a cooking studio for the catering business that Raghava toils in. The camera, while capturing the faces of the people who work there, occasionally zooms in on some of the cast members—Chikkanna plays Agni, who’s an eccentric and hot-tempered fellow.
Agni doesn’t like to be disturbed whatsoever; he yells whenever he’s spoken to. But the film forgets that he exists after a couple of mandatory attempts at stringing together some humor around him.
In the first half hour, you get a sense that Raghava is hiding his past. Since the movie is set in North India, you may also be inclined to build a backstory for Raghava and his son, Arjun (Jason D’Souza). But, on the other hand, you have the option of choosing not to perform such tedious permutations and combinations in your head. The trailer has already given away the central conceit and there’s no point in wondering about Ragahava’s birth place, or the circumstances that may have pushed him to take up a job in Uttar Pradesh.
You’ll not get all the answers right away, but if you wait for it, you’ll see a pattern emerge from the soul of the Baashha template. Raghava keeps telling everybody that violence isn’t good and he tells his son, in private, that revenge isn’t his cup of tea. Arjun doesn’t agree with him, though. He believes in the concept of retributive justice. Since he’s too young to worry about murders and murderers, he sticks to the examples that he can reach for. He talks about a video in which a dog barks at a lion and goes on to explain the differences between tolerance and strength.
Such individual anecdotes are sprinkled throughout Roberrt. And the film even borrows tall tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to have discussions about betrayal and valor. The myths only offer the characters to place their faith in something larger than themselves for a brief moment. What happens later then? The director keeps jumping from one conversation to the other constantly which makes it seem as though there are too many sub-plots. A homophobic incident is followed by an action scene and it ends with the hero’s monologue about showing respect to the queer community.
Similarly, there’s a scene where Raghava tells his boss, Amrutha (Asha Bhat), about the amount of love that needs to be added to the dishes that they prepare. Amrutha has come back to India after studying the art of cooking in a professional manner in a foreign university. She orders her staff members to wear uniforms and instructs them to use walkie-talkies. She probably thinks it saves time. But her employees aren’t ready to adapt to the modern ways of living and working yet. And, as a matter of fact, her methods of cooking are ridiculous.
There are several such scenes that make you double-check if you bought the ticket for just one movie. You may even grow old by a year or two by the time you walk out of the theatre. I’m not saying that Roberrt is terrible. It’s just middling at best! While I was watching the movie, I was reminded of the Telugu action dramas Indra (2002) and Agnyaathavaasi (2018), as well. Tharun Kishore Sudhir seems to have made a full-length feature film by dragging bits and pieces from many places.
The greatest chip on the movie’s shoulder is its soundtrack album. You can listen to the songs when you get stuck in the unrelenting Bengaluru traffic.