Mythology must have been invented to shield the human race from the harsh truth that justice is a myth.
to listen to stories of good winning over evil, accounts of muscled handsome gods taking on pathologically evil asuras in fights of extreme skill; people need to watch the beefy hero kill the bad guys all by himself.
Because in real life, the guy who steals Rs. 1 lakh crores, wipes out hundreds of hectares of forest land and renders thousands of people homeless is, well, the guy who smiles at you from the front pages of newspapers until he dies of natural causes. No warrior confronts him, no crowd lynches him, no past catches up with him.
No point, then, in carping about how Krish, the rather acclaimed writer-director who gave us mostly unadulterated socially-conscious films - this
- has now chosen to peddle a movie
rather than launch a social commentary.
Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum (KVJ) deals with the weighty issue of Bellary's illegal mining. Anyone clued into the buzz surrounding the movie also knows that KVJ is a tribute to Surabhi, the 125-year-old theatre group that is well-known for its Telugu mythological plays. KVJ, then, tries to use symbolism and mythology to lace its story of good vs evil.
Surabhi takes centre-stage here, as RaNa Daggubati plays Babu, an artiste from the troupe. Babu's guardian Subrahmaniam (Kota Srinivasa Rao) is a Surabhi veteran, and has a rare conviction in the reforming power of art. Babu, however, sees nothing attractive about the dying art form of theatre ("chappatlu... vinataniki bauntayi kaani thinataniki kadu...
"), and because he's young and qualified to be an engineer, wants to fly abroad for a more lucrative career.
The drama company has its roots in Bellary, a land which has seen a disturbing transformation from times gone by - forests and farmlands have disappeared, farmers are left hungry, soil and water are contaminated, and people "breathe iron dust".
Surabhi's artistes decide to go to Bellary to perform one last time, and this is when the troupe runs into the incredibly heinous mining mafia there - as well as Babu's past.
Using theatre and mythology as a backdrop was a fine idea, but really, KVJ's two biggest strengths are its dialogues and its background score. The lines in the on-stage dramas themselves have symbolism, but the other dialogues written are exceptionally brilliant - and boy, does Krish have a clever sense of humour. Rarely do you watch a conversation pass by without it having something for you to think about and applaud.
There are scenes and characters that strike you as masterfully conceived, for example, the one played by L B Sriram (he plays a deeply disturbed Bellary farmer who is always seen digging away and "storing" earth because he wants to protect it from being stolen).
Also, Posani - who'd have thought he would be such a delight to watch? In the role of a cab driver called Tipu, he's pretty darn entertaining.
But look a little closer and you realize that this concept of using theatre artistes to form a narrative accompanying the main - ironically, the one thing that sets KVJ apart from, say, a V V Vinayak film - clutters the picture. The fight between good and evil here involves merely muscle power, guns and gore. In the end, justice is indeed delivered. But where is the social critique, where are the insights, where are the goddamn real
solutions? Scenes from Pataala Bhairavi and the Mahabharata sometimes serve the purpose, but sometimes it's easy to miss the symbolism. Then again, you might not care.
There is also a filmi tendency to portray "extreme" evil; cutting off tongues, peeing on sacred ash etc. The gore is not family material. In any case, this is an intense film, one that you cannot choose if you want to let your hair down at the cinemas.
All the actors show immense conviction. For RaNa, this is a big role, irrespective of how the film does at the box office. This isn't an emotion-packed role, so he does just fine, but he still doesn't have it in him to pull off philosophical moments.
Something doesn't quite click between him and Nayantara. The lady does as good a job as any actress possibly can when playing a journo whose white shirt and sky-blue jacket remain unruffled and unsoiled despite her traversing Bellary's dusty tracts of land for days on end.
The comedy involving Brahmanandam is quite well-scripted. Raghu Babu, Satyam Rajesh and Hema are good.
Milind Gunaji as Reddappa, and Murli Sharma, too, have pivotal roles.
The background score is probably more powerful than RaNa in taking the lead and setting the film's tone. The songs are mostly distractions, though. Since this is a commercial film and all that, you also have skimpily-dressed women dancing in ill-placed dance numbers.
Costumes are perfect, the cinematography is good, and the film feels like a thoughtfully put together product.
There's much more to KVJ than Sameera Reddy and 2 minutes of Venkatesh, but don't expect it to end world hunger, and you'll do just fine.