Films with an underworld theme are not new in Sandalwood. In fact, for almost two decades – starting from the trendsetting Om to Haftha – Sandalwood has produced a number of films set in the world of criminals. Gangster movies sell better in this industry and the fact that such movies are still being made indicates the popularity of the genre. Haftha would have easily been a mediocre film, if not for the reveal about the protagonist’s gender identity and the fact that it isn’t set in the typical Srirampuram or Majestic area of Bengaluru. The movie is built around the mafia in the coastal region.
Two best friends Kudla (Vardhan Thirthahalli) and Shankar Yerawada (Raghav Nag) have one dream – to rule the coastal belt by finishing off their rival. Shankar doesn’t speak much and lets his actions do the talking – he’s the typical silent killer. Kudla, on the other hand, is tactful, fast and calls the shots. They are both sharpshooters by profession and take up several contracts until they come face-to-face with the kingmaker Kulal Pandey (Balraj Wadi). There is also a love story blended in to balance the action sequences. While the film goes on to show several fights between the protagonists and the rival gang, it takes a different turn when Kudla makes a revelation. But is it Kudla? Or is it his evil twin?
Vardhan Thirthahalli, who has worked on character roles and negative roles in more than 40 Kannada films, portrays a strikingly different avatar in this underworld film. Vardhan was first seen in Cheluvina Chittara and went on to act in Rambo 2, Kotigobba, Santhu Straight Forward and Kariya 2. In Haftha, he plays the role of sharpshooter with a secret about gender identity with ease and balances both very well. A natural actor with a chiselled body, his experience with negative roles makes him the perfect fit for the role. In comparison, Raghav Nag comes off as a mediocre performer. Though his role has been written on par with Vardhan’s, he fails to live up to it. Bimbashree of Rama Rama Re fame plays the role of a Bharatanatyam dancer who is Vardhan’s love interest. Sowmya plays a sex worker and has a minor role in the film. Balraj Wadi as the villain is an apt choice. Vardhan, however, takes the cake with his brilliant dual-tone role.
Haftha has been shot extensively in the Mangalore region. The picturesque location is captured brilliantly through the cinematographer’s lens. The film is the directorial debut of Prakash Hebbala. While he can be appreciated for choosing a script with a brilliant twist, a little more groundwork and change of narration would have helped in the development of the story. The storyline is predictable; a tight grip over the screenplay would have made the movie a better fare. Dialogue are also routine, though with a different accent.
Music director Gautham Srivatsaa has worked on the background score and the title track of the film. Songs are mostly based on trance and techno tones. Though the music is unique, the songs aren’t hummable.
Except for Kudla’s characterisation, it is the same old story of gang war blended with love stories. From Kariya to Geleya to Belli, the story, narration and treatment has remained the same for decades. So it is in the case of Haftha as well. Recommended only if you are a fan of gangster films.
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.