James may appear tad cliched for some but it shines through as a sincere ode to the legacy of Puneeth Rajkumar and his ever-growing fandom.

James poster featuring Puneeth RajkumarSCREENGRAB/ YOUTUBE
Flix Review Thursday, March 17, 2022 - 15:53
Worth a watch

It wouldn't be unfair to say that only a few films in the history of Indian cinema have carried the emotional bearing that Chethan Kumar's James has. For the many million fans of the late Puneeth Rajkumar, March 17 had been marked as a day of cathartic expression, one that transcended the usual celebrations surrounding a release and instead captured their boundless love and adoration for a star and his imperishable legacy. And 'James', the film, becomes that grand last hurrah as it gets fittingly released in cinema halls on the birth anniversary of the Powerstar.

"The world is divided into three types of markets," beckons the narrator's voice as we are introduced to the world of James at the beginning of the film. This world, centred around the grimmest and stealthiest of the three markets (referred to as the "Dark" one), is slick with the snazzy cars, yachts and suits with the ruthless  and macho men at the helm. The narrator adds that this world is mainly an epicentre to crime and notoriety with its rulers exercising power and control over governments across the globe through their corporate fronts. Joseph Anthony, one of the main drug kingpins, is at loggerheads with his Indian counterpart Jayadev Gayakwad and when the latter is assassinated by Anthony's men, son Vijay Gayakwad (played by Srikanth Meka) takes over the reins. Problems, however, cease to end as Vijay’s life too looms under a serious threat and it is up to Santosh, played by Puneeth Rajkumar, to aid him as his one-man security force. Santosh, as the spearhead of the J Wings Security Agency in Bengaluru, is charismatic, noble, and super daring but is there more to him than meets the eye?

Director Chethan Kumar relies heavily on slick editing and voice overs in the beginning to set up his world and slowly warm us up to the film’s temperament. There is absolutely no dearth of action in the film considering the high-stakes world of drug peddling and power, and potentially every conflict gets resolved with a fight or two. The film was to always be a bonafide Puneeth Rajkumar vehicle but with things taking a tragic twist, the context becomes crystal clear as far as its main spotlight is concerned. And the actor steps up to the occasion just as well with his impeccable dancing and action skills and throughout the film, he oozes that unique charm that most would buy the ticket for. Yet, one can’t help but wonder about the lacklustre story and execution and how they, eventually, fail to do enough justice to his potential as a superstar.

Priya Anand, reunited with Puneeth after the mighty successful outing in Raajakumaara, is gorgeous on screen but the screenplay fails to exploit their charm as the hit on-screen couple. Her role, as Vijay Gayakwad’s sister Nisha, is stunted by the lack of wholesomeness in the writing, and whatever little she is provided as space results in a slightly bland portion. The main focus of the film, aside from Puneeth Rajkumar, is the baddies and one finds them in abundance here, clad in the sharpest of suits and sipping on premium booze. Veteran actor Sarath Kumar’s Joseph Anthony is menacing and stylish at first glance but his part is too one-dimensional to exude any thrills among the audience. The Gangavathi born Srikanth Meka too looks sharp and luring in his pinstriped avatar and though he plays a crucial role in the whole scheme of things, his part remains underwhelming, leaving Puneeth to do all the heavy lifting. On the other hand, senior actors Rangayana Raghu and Suchendra Prasad bring their vast experience to the table and shine in the limited roles they play.

But all these drawbacks don’t necessarily have to be a blip if you are someone seeking a strong and sincere dosage of the Powerstar. Puneeth Rajkumar manages to light up the screen every time he appears on it and the film, to its due credit, offers him a platform to offer us all some delightful moments. Despite the clunky setting and the heavy-handedness with which Chethan Kumar & Co. go about things, Puneeth Rajkumar doesn’t seem out of place in any frame and masters equal control over action, comedy and raw emotion. The action sequences in particular are a tad overbearing but voguish and appealing, thus showcasing the dynamism that he packs while some of the dramatic sequences, especially in the important second half, bring out the seasoned actor in him. Swamy J. Gowda’s cinematography makes a loud “whoosh” every time the camera sweeps past a character’s face but is ample and attractive throughout. Music composer Charan Raj renders a soundtrack that’s both celebratory and emotional in nature (thanks to Sanjith Hegde’s vocals) and he is well accompanied by V Harikrishna who brings tremendous energy on to the screen with his background score.

James ultimately, is a sincere ode to the legacy of Puneeth Rajkumar and his ever-growing fandom. The film also makes history for bringing together the three Rajkumar brothers for the maiden time (although not in a single frame) with both Shiva Rajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar playing small but effective cameos. Shiva Rajkumar also lends his voice to Appu’s character in the film following the latter’s tragic and unfortunate demise on October 29, 2021. The makers too have striven hard in putting the missing pieces together through visual effects and smart camera angles and have ended things on a rather emotional note through a video tribute to Puneeth Rajkumar. For the audience, the image of Puneeth Rajkumar’s beaming face is sure to last long in their memories and despite all the flaws, the film will go down as the most special.

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.

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