November 30, 2021 4:45:07 pm
In the last decade, Kannada cinema has seen a host of filmmakers who are making engaging and endearing movies that are based in Karnataka’s hinterland. Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana is a notable addition to the list. Far away from the underbelly of Bengaluru city, the film infuses the Kannada gangster genre with much-needed creative energy. The story of the movie is not something unheard of — it begins with the rise, and rise of young gangsters, who slay their old rivals to establish their domination, only to fall prey to a future crop of bad guys. What goes up, must come down.
Raj B. Shetty takes that very familiar story about a life steeped in violence and places it in a mythological context, which expands the scope of the film and elevates it to a higher plane. It is no longer about the rise and fall of two gangsters. It becomes more spiritual than a mere act of violence and how it leaves behind a trail of corpses.
What makes it more appealing is that it comes from the benevolent mind of Raj B. Shetty, who gave us such a warm, realistic and memorable portrayal of a bald man in a society obsessed with appearance. In his directorial debut Ondu Motteya Kathe (2017), which he had also written, Raj played the role of a school teacher who has a tough time finding a woman to marry, courtesy of his bald pate. He had delivered a realised performance of an insecure man, who gradually loses his warmth to self-loathing and bitterness.
In Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, Raj has created the direct opposite of his previous movie. In the latest movie, he plays the role called Shiva. As the name suggests, he plays the sheer force of destruction, a far cry from a timid school teacher.
The film revolves around three main characters: Shiva, the destroyer; Hari, the saviour and Brammayya, the creator. And what happens when the trio turn against each other and engage in a fight unto death? It is a fascinating thought. And Raj reimagines the holy trinity as flawed human beings living in modern-day Mangalore. He uses the tropes of gangster drama in service of reflecting the lifestyle and culture of Karnataka’s coastal regions, which seldom gets their due in mainstream movies, and in the study of the nature of violence.
Raj is a highly disciplined writer, and it is apparent in how he creatively adopts some of the challenging themes of mythology. There is a very tender moment between Shiva and Hari in the movie. Hari’s affection and admiration for Shiva feel more than just a true friendship. You see pure attraction and love in Hari’s eyes when he sees Shiva. It sort of throws you off as you wonder about the nature of their relationship. If you think a little hard, there is a mythological reference to it too. There is a story of how Lord Shiva was attracted to Lord Vishnu when he took the form of Mohini. From the narrative point of view, this attraction of Hari towards Shiva has a poetic edge of how deep affection soon turns into deeper hatred.
And when a writer is as disciplined as Raj, he or she can see all the oscillating patterns across human history and mythology and beautifully spin them into an epic tale of tragedy.
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