Cast: Darshan, Rashmika Mandanna, Dhananjaya, Anoop Singh, P. Ravishankar
Directors: Pon Kumaran, V Harikrishna
Darshan is back on the big screen after a year and a half with an action film. His previous release, Tarak, leaned towards melodrama, but, in his latest movie, the actor is in his element. Yajamana’s Krishna (Darshan) doesn’t shout much while fighting, but he sends the goons flying with his acrobatic kicks. In fact, in his introduction scene, he’s told that a bunch of men has arrived to whisk away the cattle, so, Krishna, without uttering a word, chases after the heavily built extras to save his herd.
I don’t know if that scene was written to cater to the cow vigilantes, or to draw applause from social media analysts who’d neatly compare it to Lord Krishna’s love for cattle, however, that particular scene has got nothing to do with the rest of the film. Similarly, many elements of a commercial potboiler pop up on screen throughout the narrative and most of them seem like a misfit in the overall scheme of things. The hugely foot-tapping number, ‘Basanni, Baa,’ is so oddly placed that, for a moment, I thought I was watching another movie. The same holds good for the lackluster comedy that Sadhu Kokila, who plays a head chef, and his sidekicks whip up.
Krishna lives in a small town named Hulidurga. The roads of this town are bumpy and narrow, but the townsfolk aren’t bothered by these hiccups, for their focus is on living a good life by being honest in their business dealings. And the business they do is making and selling edible oil. There are no wholesome portions dedicated to the extraction of oil via the traditional method. Instead, the directors – V. Harikrishna and P. Kumar – are more interested in increasing the tensions between the film’s hero and villain.
I feel sorry for Thakur Anoop Singh, as his presence in South Indian movies so far hasn’t changed from the bar that’s set for megalomaniacs. From the 2017 Tamil film, Si3, to 2019’s Yajamana, he’s been challenging the heroes of Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada cinemas only to get beaten up black-and-blue by them in the end. The characters he’s been given are formulaic and stupid. In this movie, he (as Devi Shetty, an oil tycoon who wants to enter the markets of Hulidurga) keeps saying, “I love challenges.” The word “challenge” takes a different meaning altogether here as Darshan’s sobriquet in the film industry is “Challenging Star”. Of course, the makers don’t leave any room for the audience to get the essence of the ambiguity on their own; they go ahead and extract this bit of dialogue for a poor punch line that hangs in the air.
The main conflict, in Yajamana, should have revolved around the disappearance of small businesses since the arrival of multi-national corporations; this is something that A.R. Murugadoss did way back, in 2014, in his Tamil action drama Kaththi. But this movie doesn’t go that far. And the accumulated anger is used by the hero only for a monologue in the climax, which serves no purpose.
The turning point of the action entertainer comes is when Krishna tells Shetty that he wouldn’t sell his company’s oil to him due to the fear of losing his identity. He calls Devi Shetty a broker for buying from one source and reselling it to another. But when he begins to do the same somewhere later in the film, nobody bats an eyelid. He’s hailed as a savior by the very people who shunned him. Do the writers even know that this phenomenon is called “double standard”?
And like Thakur Anoop Singh, Dhananjaya, who starred in Tagaru as the principal antagonist, is being boxed in vaguely similar roles. He plays Mittai Soori, a hot-headed young man who sees no fault in Shetty’s plans. It looks like Dhananjaya has started to walk in the path of opposing the ideas and ideologies proposed by Kannada cinema’s heroes. I hope he’s at least given the flexibility, like his seniors Prakash Raj and P. Ravi Shankar to easily shift between being the villain’s sidekick and a character actor on whom the film rests.
In conclusion – I was saving this for the last, obviously – the track that really has no relevance to the story goes to the romantic interactions involving Krishna and Kaveri (Rashmika Mandanna). A couple of flashback episodes take us back to the twosome’s school days and this tells us that they’re from the same age group. But the age-gap between the actors, which is more than a decade and a half, shows on-screen. There are many such writing flaws in Yajamana and they can’t be overlooked even in a genre that asks you to set aside logic.