Sandalwood
Director Champa Shetty has managed to carefully tread between an art film and a commercial film.

Ammachi Yemba Nenapu, the movie, is an adaptation of the play Akku - which is a compilation of short stories written by renowned Kannada writer Vaidehi. The plot revolves around Puttammatte (Radhakrishna Urala), a widow, her granddaughter Ammacchi (Vyjayanti Adiga), a ‘progressive’ woman stuck in the patriarchal society, and Akku (Deepika Aradhya), a zany middle-aged woman, who goes around imagining she’s pregnant after her good-for-nothing husband suddenly disappears.

Stuck in their own set of problems, these women, whose lives are uniquely interwoven, aspire to fly above their circumstances. But, the outside world and the patriarchal society, in the most heartless and cruel ways, try to pin them down. Puttamatte, a helpless widow, who is at the mercy of Sheshamma’s family - an upper caste clan in a small village in the coastal region - is worried about her granddaughter’s future. Though she doesn’t want Ammachi to just settle down with any random person, circumstances don’t give her any other option.

Ammachi, the strongest character in the film, is fearless and isn’t afraid to take on Venkappaiah (Raj B Shetty), a shrewd man, who wants to marry Ammachi only to ‘tame’ her. But, after a rumour spreads in the village, she succumbs to his ‘power’. Akku, on the other hand, throughout the film, makes you wonder if she is insane or if the people around her are. Every character in the film is unique – be it Puttamatte narrating how she escaped from a molester using a safety pin, or the tale of a widow who brought up Puttamatte; the womenfolk of the Sheshamma family, the kitchen conversations, the women living amid fear of the men, the jealous mother who is afraid that men would choose fair and beautiful Ammachi over her dusky daughter - every character is powerful but surrendering in its own way.

Director Champa Shetty has managed to carefully tread between an art film and a commercial film. She deserves applause for attempting such a film in itself. Characters have been developed to suit a commercial film format, but the movie largely feels like an art film. Naveen Kumar’s cinematography is top-notch and it is the heart of this film. Lensing is extremely professional and well-handled throughout, giving the sordid environment a sort of natural effect that pulls the viewer into the story.

The song 'Holeva Holeyachege' is visual poetry with every frame speaking volumes. A shot of Akku behind windows, which implies how she is stuck in her own thoughts, is wonderfully captured. Art direction is another highlight of the film. Performance-wise, every character is excellent in their own way. Radhakrishna Urala as a widow is espeically brilliant. Though in a few scenes, you can figure out that it is a man playing a woman, you tend to ignore it for the performance’s sake.

Vyjayanti and Deepika as Ammachi and Akku respectively, have played their part well while Raj Shetty is good at what he does. Writer Vaidehi is also seen in a small role. The movie is a two-hour long visually rich experience, with every frame narrating a story of its own. However, the movie may not appeal to the commercial film lovers and is largely dependent on the audience who appreciate non-commercial movies. Songs starting out of nowhere, like in a play, may not be liked by all. The dialogues are written completely in Kundapura style Kannada (coastal Karnataka), which may not be understood by everyone.

Overall, Ammachi Yemba Nenapu is a good watch and since the Kannada audience, of late, has given a thumbs up to experimental films, the movie may end up doing well, too.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.