Kannada cinema is today on a roll. The success of several films over the last two years (Jogi, Duniya etc) has brought the faith back to the audiences. It’s the same old theory again. A good story even if it has been told earlier, works as well as ever if done with hummable songs, a good mix of humour and emotions and most importantly an honest director. It’s a formula that cannot fail. This is reaffirmed more than ever with Mungaaru Male, the most successful film in the history of Kannada Cinema. The figures are staggering...175 days and counting... Still running at more than 100 screens. The most downloaded ringtones in Bangalore. What more can you ask for, when one Hindi speaking non-Kannadiga techie in Bangalore is asking another whether he has seen 'MM'?
The film opens quietly without a fuss, with a story that is most predictable. Boy sees girl. Boy loves girl. Girl getting married in a week. Boy’s charm steals the girl’s heart. Boy and girl are all set to elope. But…This is where a charmer of a film takes off. With brilliant writing, director Yograj Bhat (Mani, Ranga SSLC (2004)) takes you on a cinematic journey with the pre-monsoon showers in the hills as a backdrop. Director Bhat is in complete control from frame one. With masterly skill in plotting the twists and turns of a rain drenched love story that pits true love against family honour, he draws the audience in with simplicity and passion. Wonderfully written lines, with humour and emotion taking turns to outbeat one another, take dialogue writing to new enjoyable heights. The creation of a mythical sequence where the hero carries the heroine up the temple steps for her to be his forever is a highlight. Rarely does one see such a cinematic conversion of a non existent temple ritual into an emotional conflict. The creation of an alter ego character in the form of a rabbit, is a master stroke. The hero risking his life by jumping in front of a moving train to save the rabbit is moving. It reflects the director’s control over a wide audience of all age groups.
The characters are well etched out to be timeless. Ganesh, as a vulnerable young spoilt brat comes alive with his casualness and sense of humour. He has earned cult status after this movie with his effortless performance, nuanced and controlled body language, and heart warming smile. He meanders through the ups and downs of the story, with a rarely seen honesty that actors in mainstream cinema otherwise lack. The last scene with the girl getting married on one side and Ganesh burying his dead rabbit in the rain at Jog falls on the other, is poignant, numbs your defences to bring a tear in your eye, and brings pure cinematic pleasure. Sanjana Gandhi as the bride to be, underplays her dilemma silently. Anant Nag as a retired colonel with a hearing impediment, draws a chuckle a minute. And last but not least mention must be made of the rabbit that has stolen childrens’ hearts.
Music Director Manomurthy, a computer science graduate from Stanford, and a multi-million dollar entrepreneur in the US, has composed brilliant music responsible in a big, big way for the film's success. Kunidu Kunidu Baare and Anisuthide are a rage all over Karnataka. It is estimated that more than 15 lakh pirated CDs of these songs have already been sold!
Cameraman Krishna’s no-fuss camera paints a poetic picture of the grey-blue romantic rain drenched hills of Western Ghats. With not a single frame filmed outside Karnataka, the locales boast of what splendour the Western Ghat landscape here has to offer. A scene and a song on the edge of a roaring Jog falls take you on a roller coaster ride with the camera free falling dangerously over the gigantic and majestic waterfall. Unlike most Indian mainstream cinema, here we actually see a cameraman enabling the director unobstrusively with his camera letting the story be told in the most effective way possible. The use of close-ups is extensive and helps one get closer to the characters and emotions of the story.
Director Bhat is undoubtedly the man of the moment. He has an enormous responsibility on his shoulders being regarded as the man who brought Kannada film audiences back to the theatres. Today thanks to him, Kannada cinema’s future has never looked brighter