Most people who think Shiva Rajkumar is on the wrong side of 50 may be forgiven for their naivety; the whistles and hoots with which his on-screen entry is greeted by his massive fan following stand testimony to his stardom. No wonder then that Bhajarangi 2, directed by A Harsha (his third collaboration with Shiva Rajkumar) was one of the films that the entire Kannada film industry had pinned its hopes on after the recent money-spinner releases Salaga and Kotigobba 3.
So, the most important question is — does the movie live up to the hype? The answer to this is a yes and no. Let me explain. Movie making is not just for entertainment but is also an economic activity. Given the sheer number of livelihoods that depend on this industry, including the fate of the investors, makers may be tempted to fall prey to a certain “formula” while strategizing to script a successful film. As such, it is the proverbial low hanging fruit that is tapped instead of aiming higher. One can’t fault the artists as they usually get sucked into a project based on a one-line narration (with mostly a verbal narration as an extension). Hence, the writing and execution are what need to be questioned specifically.
An action-fantasy film, the one-line story of Bhajarangi 2 at a very macro level, brings in elements from our ancient practices of Ayurveda. There is a nod to the medical fraternity as being the torchbearers for humanity, since they save lives. However, the execution and presentation are pretty hollow and superficial.
The story is presented as a narration between a group of lost villagers and a hermit. Shiva Rajkumar plays both the characters of Anji (a yet to be married single man at the cusp of passing his prime) and Bhajarangi (a forest officer); how these two characters are connected is one of the central plots. The other is the mythological origin of the Hindu God of medicine, Dhanvantari, and his descendants. The concoction is completed by adding a drug mafia angle to the story.
While all this, coupled with decent VFX, might feel sufficient for people to be transported to a completely new world, the manner in which the scenes are stitched together, as well as the one-dimensional characters, leave the audience feeling disconnected. The build-up towards the age-old Good vs Evil battle lacks finesse and isn’t necessarily engrossing.
The characters, the so-called fantasy world they inhabit, the language/dialects, vehicles, currency, the crossover of “modern world doctors” etc., are all very inconsistent and lack logic. This is mainly due to the fact that nowhere in the movie is the time period or era defined. Given the multiple timelines that the story explores, it is necessary to establish the period. This is just one of the many things that affect the final outcome. Take, for example, a Vespa scooter merely labeled with an old registration number or the people who are supposedly “away from civilisation” easily following many quips in English by Anji; the easy access that the doctors seem to have to the tribal people makes it very difficult to believe that all the incidents happening in and around the forest go unnoticed by the laws that be.
The other factor is the expected over-the-top histrionics that almost every major character resorts to. Somehow, most of our filmmakers seem to make the audience believe, film after film, that to showcase every extreme emotion, one needs to be unnecessarily loud. Likewise, the background score tends to thump it out to evoke emotions.
It is exactly here that the writing should be given the responsibility of evoking the relevant emotions from the audience via the performance of the actors. It is high time that directors focus on the writing part during the pre-production stage itself so that every scene included serves a real purpose rather than just being manufactured to fill/extend the runtime.
Lines generated as an on-screen praise for fan-boy reasons (although the word “Dyavru” has a different context, the extent of its usage almost feels like a deliberate attempt to replace “the annavru effect”), continuous build-ups that run deep into even the climax portions, excessive use of slo-mo shots — all need to be used sparingly so that they serve their purpose at the right moments. In a runtime of 2 hour 35 minutes, this was at least about two hours of exhaustion.
Speaking of positives, as usual, Shiva Rajkumar has given it his all and is at his energetic best. So is Arjun Janya with a mix of songs that have already become popular. It’s good to see someone like Sourav Lokesh in a different role but again, one wishes that there was more meat to the entire script so it would allow the artists to shine while telling the story. Bhavana, who plays the female lead, is relegated to the regular commercial movie confines and has nothing more to do than the usual trope of being loud-mouthed, following the hero around in a bid to get him interested in her etc. Likewise, for Shruthi (though, one might argue she is seen in a very different role) – her character too doesn’t have much depth and at the convenient moment, flips inexplicably to the good ways suggested by Anji.
In conclusion, this seems like a never-ending “demand-supply” chain, where despite the Kannada audience being exposed to world content, it is assumed that they are just happy to lap up what is served as staple diet in the name of entertainment in most of the Kannada movies. As stated earlier, given the economic importance of the industry, the makers look to tap into the first three days’ box office collections to stay safe. It takes belief to break this monotony and carve out a niche that the industry is very well capable of and as a movie buff, I will keep looking for that break-out to happen sooner than later.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.