July 26, 2019 2:12:56 pm
Rishab Shetty last year wrote and directed a humble film called Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai. It is one of the longest, if not the longest, titles in the history of Kannada cinema. In a way, the ridiculous length of the title shows the sheer confidence that the director had in his material, vision and skill set.
Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai is the postal address of one of the few Kannada medium government schools in Kasaragod district in Kerala. The school with less than 60 students suffers from the negligence of government officials. Before we get to the real conflict of the narrative, we are made familiar with the lifestyle and rich cultural diversity of the inhabitants of Kasaragod. A slew of interesting characters, their magnificently entertaining conversations, a strong brotherhood and a beautiful Kannada dialect fill up the screen and keep the mood light and breezy throughout the film.
It would have been easy for Rishab Shetty to turn this film into a serious drama about biased and greedy government officials robbing students of their future, rights, dreams and aspirations for personal gains. Or he could have made a provocative film about the threat that Kannada language faces in the neighbouring state. Instead, he has made a very unsentimental and heart-warming film about the sociopolitical crisis of a humble district.
Shetty uses political conflict of the region to great comical effect. The film doesn’t slip into melodrama even when it had all the right reasons to do so. When the government school is forced to shut, you can see the future of children falling apart. Some parents take their kids to assist them in their work, and some parents worry as they want their kids to have a better life than them through education. Jobless school teachers resort to doing menial jobs. And yet, the director sticks to the humour and never lets the narration become heavy or overtly emotional.
The performances of young actors add to the feel-good element of the film. And seasoned actor Anant Nag as an easy-going and ever-smiling social activist Anantha Padmanabha .P is just icing on the cake. His character embodies the legitimate anger of the director and those of others who feel their language, which is their identity and medium that they dream and express, is falling victim to language imperialism.
However, Anantha Padmanabha’s aggression never spills out of the confines of civility and become violent. Because he knows that violence may give you instant gratification but would not end your long-term problems.
Take, for example, Shantharama Upadhyaya (naturally played by Pramod Shetty). He represents those who think a tight slap is an easy solution for every problem. His methods are emotionally and physically demanding and make him give up soon. Also, he ends up incurring high-blood pressure. Unreasonable aggression has no place in a civilized society. Regardless of his noble intentions, Upadhyaya’s short-sighted and reckless actions just create insignificant noise and are of no help when needed.
Rishab Shetty is young and just a few films old. He is among the new breed of directors-actors who are nudging the Kannada film industry into a new phase of entertainment and honest storytelling. One of the biggest strengths of this filmmaker is he knows what a good film looks and feels like. He is also a responsible storyteller as he steers clear of unnecessary chest-thumping.
Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai is available on Sun Nxt.
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