Sandalwood
Director Vijayanagendra gives us an absolute entertainer in his debut attempt, with Ganesh and other lead actors shining in their roles.
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With the ‘one nation one language’ pitch making headlines across the nation recently, Geetha could not have found a better release date. With the Gokak agitation – a successful language rights agitation in the 1980s that fought for the first-language status of Kannada – as the backdrop, this trademark Ganesh love story makes for an absolute entertainer, that is if you can ignore the slow screenplay.

It was surprising to learn that in the last 35 years, nobody took the initiative to make a movie on the biggest Kannada language-related agitation that took place in Karnataka in 1982. There are a few short films, but a movement of this scale deserves a full-length movie.

Akash (Ganesh), a software engineer, is raised by a single parent, Shankar (Devraj). He craves love and affection from both parents, but his attempts to find his mother don’t succeed. He finally finds a good confidant in Priya (Shanvi Srivastava), and ends up falling in love with Geetha (Prayaga Rose Martin). Twists and turns force Shankar to reveal details about his estranged wife and his lover Geethanjali (Parvathi Arun). The film then takes us back to the 1980s when the Gokak agitation was at its peak. Here, Ganesh plays a young Shankar and Shanvi plays his best friend Aarathi. Shankar is in love with Geethanjali but had to let her go due to the agitation. Post intermission, Akash ends up in a similar situation. But, Akash is not a quitter when it comes to love.

Half-way into the Gokak agitation, Karnatakadalli Kannadigane Sarvabhowma (When it comes to Karnataka, Kannadigas rule) asserts Ganesh onscreen, which was followed by non-stop whistles and hoots for over a minute in the theatre. By the end of the agitation scenes, all you have is goosebumps, a newfound love for the language and a faint memory about the love story. But again, the biggest irony is non-Kannadiga heroines playing title roles in a film that makes a strong pitch for Kannada and Kannadigas.

The movie has several layers of friendship, love, sacrifice and unrequited love that can be experienced through each carefully crafted character. Mysuru plays the perfect host for the 80s scenes and it is a treat to see Ganesh play Shankar than Akash. His dialogues about Kannada are sure to give goosebumps throughout. The movie is a great tribute to the almost-forgotten Gokak agitation. For those who were a part of the movement, the movie will be like walking down memory lane and is sure to open a flood of emotions.

The ensemble cast includes Ganesh, Shanvi Srivastava, Prayaga Rose Martin, Parvathi Arun, Devraj, Sudha Rani, Achyut Kumar, Rangayana Raghu, among others. The big names itself speak for the quality of the film. The cast is perfect and the lead female actors, too, have done a good job despite not being natives of the Kannada language. 

It was also nice to see, for once, an overweight woman (Prayaga Rose Martin who plays the title role) play the role of a strong, independent woman. Geetha has a thyroid issue and is comfortable with her body. When her fiancé passes a sexist comment about her body and the way she dresses, instead of coming back as a typical Kannadati in a saree and big bindi, she dumps him right there. Geetha is one of the strongest roles written for women in a Kannada film in a long time.

Give Ganesh a love story and you’ll see him give the best output. Give Ganesh a love story laced with activism and he will prove why he owns the role. Both Ganesh and Shanvi have handled their dual roles with maturity. Geetha is not a candyfloss love story catering to youngsters. It is about love, unrequited love and how two generations experience love with a different set of emotions and expectations.

Rangayana Raghu impresses with his mannerisms and the comedy is not forced. Even the songs go with the flow. The title track is very hummable and leaves a soothing effect on the mind. Cinematographer Shreesha Kuduvalli’s visuals are stunning.

Director Vijayanagendra emerges a winner with a film that can cater to the mass and class. It is indeed very difficult to blend a love story with a movement without proper explanations. Vijayanagendra succeeds in his debut attempt. The only drawback is the length of the film.

Geetha, just like Shankar Nag’s love story from the 80s, is a brilliant movie in a long time. Don’t miss this one in the theatre.

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.