If there’s one thing that star vehicles in Kannada cinema can always rely on, it is family sentiment. The selfless son, ready to sacrifice everything for family members who little recognise his unceasing love for them, remains one of the most popular characters in Sandalwood.
And truckloads of Kannadiga pride seem to complete the rest of the formula.
So you have the Duniya Vijay-starrer Kanaka, which tells the story of a young man who lives in complete devotion to the late veteran actor Dr Rajkumar. His films, Kanaka tells us, have more to teach us than all of the best degrees in the world. Much of what Kanaka has learnt seems to be a violent assertion that Kannada reigns supreme in Karnataka, a vehement advocacy for Bengaluru’s auto-drivers as some of the city’s best people, and a lament that young people have strayed from their traditional culture and humanity.
That this extended lesson on the virtues of Kanaka abruptly ends at the interval with the bizarrely patriarchal death of one of the women characters in the film is an irony that goes entirely unnoticed.
Quickly, the film and its protagonist move onto Bankapura, the village from which Kanaka ran away as a young child, unable to bear his father’s constant physical and emotional abuse. The reason for the father’s unending anger towards his own child? An astrologer tells him before Kanaka’s birth that this son will lead to the ruin and destruction of the family.
When Kanaka returns to prove his love for the family, his mother and brother are eager to accept him, but his father’s anger is unchanged. Yet, Kanaka is the kind of man who will accept even the harshest, most unreasonable treatment because that’s how deep his love for family runs. Luckily, of course, there are villains threatening the family, and Kanaka’s ability to fight off gangs of henchmen proves a surefire way to finally win his father’s love.
Director R Chandru follows a completely predictable potboiler formula, though the film is clearly overextended in trying to accommodate all of the action and family elements. What is particularly difficult to stomach is the excessive appeal to Kannada chauvinism in the first half of the film.
In typical star vehicle style, Kanaka revolves entirely around Duniya Vijay, who features in almost every frame of the film. But what’s crucially missing is a proper antagonist to pit the hero against, with Ravi Shankar featuring in a highly truncated role that leaves little room for his menace to flourish.
Manvitha Harish and Hariprriya have little to do in their respective roles, as the two romances in the film occupy an excessive amount of time without adding anything to the story. Kanaka is best reserved for Duniya Vijay’s fans, and anyone else is unlikely to lose much by giving this film a miss.
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.