6:00 AM: The alarm on your smart phone jangles, sending out sycophantic, irritating sound waves that cut through your fog of brain, interrupting what possibly is a very crucial moment in your dream; then, as the insistent sound clears out the fog, you realize it’s another manic weekday.
6:15 AM: The snooze function kicks in the noise again, and you know there’s no escaping the day. And then, your heart rate increases, as you begin recounting what work calendar awaits you. You sense an uneasy churn hit your gut, wondering if there’s any way to escape that unpleasant meeting – nope. That presentation and the budget Excel sheet! Damn everyone!
7:00 AM: You’re already peering into the inescapable glow of your laptop. You sense a blur of an image next to you – but you’re too busy to look up and greet your parent; you continue typing furiously, dismiss the loving offer of coffee with an impatient response.
8:15 AM: The thought of the presentation, the meeting, and the imminent traffic make you tetchy, and you rush out the house, ignoring the irritating questions that follow you out the door – “What time will you be back?” “Do you want your lunch tomorrow?” “What do you want for dinner?” How you wish they left you alone!
If your life revolves around everything that is work, if you get a feeling of being indispensable to everyone and everything at work, everyone but the people at home, you’ll be right where director-writer Hemanth Rao wants you to be – uncomfortably at home. With his debut Kannada movie, Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (Wheatish Complexion Average Build), he takes a poignant look at this age of being connected – to the sound of messaging notification on your latest smartphone; the sound of the ring tone that makes you feel important and connected; the vibration of your smart device that you want to attend to, iOS (or Android, or worse, Windows) forbid it’s a phantom vibration you felt. And yet, even as the world of apps and e-mails and presentations encompasses all of us, as we all get sucked into the internet of things, do we realize we’re all blowing out an impregnable bubble of data packets that’s distancing us from the person cooking for us (no, I don’t mean your latest conquest from Assam or Nepal), caring for us, worrying about us?
Welcome to the world of the wired and all wired up Shiva (Rakshit Shetty), whose life is all of the above. (How’s that for lazy writing?) Based out of Mumbai, he comes to Bangalore for a business meeting that could well turn out to be his ticket to New York. At this point, the director also lets us into the world of Shiva’s father, Venkob Rao (Anant Nag), who’s living in an old age home, cared for by the staff and Dr. Sahana (Sruthi Hariharan). The first time you see Shiva and Sahana interact, you realize just how far away Shiva is from his father – he’s hardly got time for her updates on his father, much rather attending to his office calls than tending to his father. But you know this as well – Venkob’s condition is deteriorating, and when he’s brought to meet his son, you know he’s afflicted with the dreaded Alzheimer’s. Shiva’s in a hurry, he knows he’ll be gone to the US soon, so makes just enough time to buy some clothes for his father. Throughout the shopping expedition, Shiva’s brusque with his father, sasses him, and when he sees that he’s picked up a pack of coloring crayons from the mall, he explodes into a raging tirade that shocks even the cab driver. And then, Venkob goes missing and director Rao sends you, Shiva, and Sahana into a state of dizzying panic.
There’s another sub-plot that the director weaves, that involves a local politician, a land scam, two ruffians – Ranga (Vasishta N Simha) and his sidekick, Manja (Ravikiran Rajendran) – and a dead body. Bumbling into this mess is the manager of a local brick factory, Kumar (Achyuth Kumar). If you’re wondering what’s all this got to do with the main plot, it’s no spoiler that Venkob also walks into this story in his state of haze and daze.
Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu is a superb look at how Shiva, in his search for his father, begins to discover things about him that he never knew. Director Hemanth Rao grippingly shows the search for Venkob – even as it dawns upon you that what’s affecting you emotionally is the inner search that kicks off within Shiva, and he stumbles into the interstices that he’s dug between Venkob and himself. The director paints some brilliant sequences in flashback to show where and how the breach began – and, in one of possibly the best scenes in the movie, takes us into the past when Shiva’s mother was still alive – she’s ill, and the father-son duo are watching an India-Pakistan cricket match. The banter between them is classic, both of them hinging their conversation and the match on Sachin Tendulkar – and then, the lights go off, there’s darkness and a painful, awkward silence. That scene is a winner, as they struggle to keep the conversation going, the only relief the director handing out to you is the irritating buzz of a mosquito that hovers around the scene to give awkwardness company. This is what good cinema is about.
Then there’s the scene where Shiva discovers a little bit more of his father in a video shot by Sahana in the hospice – as Venkob cuts the cake on his birthday and is asked to make a wish, all the director shows is that he’s making a wish for Shiva – and that’s enough to make you swallow the giant lump in your throat. Or, when Shiva meets Venkob’s rum-quaffing friend and the latter gives him a sharp dressing down, you begin to form your own imagery and behavioural patterns, and want a drink too. Director Hemanth Rao also scores mightily in the scene where Sahana narrates to Shiva the love story of his parents, and as the story progresses, you and Shiva realize one thing – there’s not one person in this world who’s ordinary – each of us have an extraordinary story that’s shaped our lives at some point, that’s made us who we are and brought us where we are. That narration scene is superbly edited by Srikanth SH, who beautifully snips back and forth between Sahana narrating the story, to Venkob telling his story to Sahana, even as Venkob’s failing memory and change in physical demeanor slips in. And of course, when Rao makes you realize even before Shiva does, the significance of the crayons that Venkob picked up at the mall, you can only blink your blurred eyes in acknowledgement.
The movie’s cast is top notch – Rakshit Shetty gets in a very credible act as Shiva, his aptly furrowed eyebrows bringing in a heft of worried baggage that grows heavier with guilt and love as the movie progresses. Sruthi Hariharan is very understated and sparklingly likeable in every scene she’s in. Hers is act of understanding the father’s problems, even as she begins to realize what haunts Shiva. As the hoodlum, the gravelly voiced Vasishta Simha is on the money. His screen presence is as scary as they get in the beginning, but by the second act, you know Ranga isn’t as cold-hearted as you thought. Unfortunately, this is also the plot point that becomes the weakest toward the end. As the manager whose family gets involved with the hoodlums and Venkob, Achyuth Kumar is a riot – he’s not loud, he’s not slapstick, he’s just tickling your schadenfreude bone and makes sure you have a good time.
But towering above this enterprise is Anant Nag. As the missing man in the poster, his is a performance that’s as nuanced as it is studied. His transformation into a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s is absolutely memorable, his eyes a blank sheet of expressionless desert, yet betraying an unknown and undefinable turmoil that has to be seen to be believed. Likewise, his dialogue delivery that changes from a regular, clear routine, to a halting, unsure, unsteady march of words. And that benign, innocent smile that glows on him – it’s simply an amazing act. And in the end, when he runs his hand on Rakshit’s back, you can feel the tender, loving touch that only a parent can offer. If that doesn’t tear you up, nothing ever will.
The music score by Charan Raj is a mixed bag – the title song (Komala Henne) is absolutely superb and top of the charts, sung with amazing feeling by Job Kurian, and the composer bringing in some beautiful sarangi, that floats on the strings of a laidback guitar pluck. Then there’s Naa Ee Sanjege – sung by Siddhanth, there’s some jazzy wind instruments, sitar, and a solid tabla base that gives the song a whole lot of verve. The rest of the songs were more of fillers to me, and at some point, also seemed to break the pace of movie. However, the composer also packs in some effective background music – especially in the aforementioned love story narration scene, where Charan Raj employs some moving, waltzing violins that fill your heart with a mixed bag of emotions.
Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu, then, is a winner, though not all the way. To me, the sub-plot that involves Vasistha Simha’s Ranga and his redemption seemed too pat and forced – an excursus in the plot that wandered far too long and away from Venkoba’s wanderings. But that’s a minor nit in a movie that is effectingly affecting and made with a lot of heart. And it’s a movie that makes you realize that no matter how connected your life is, no matter how far ahead and high in your career you’ve flown, you’re wallowing in the internet of nothings if you’ve left your loved ones behind.
Watch the trailer of Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu here: