Malgudi Days has a very special place among both cinema and book lovers. Thanks are due to author RK Narayan and Shankar Nag (director of the entertaining TV series), who not only made our childhood dreamy but also gave us a reason to get all nostalgic as soon as we hear the title song. The fictional town of Malgudi, according to many fans of the book, is derived from two famous localities in Bengaluru – Malleswaram and Basavanagudi. The ‘Dodmane’ in Agumbe, where portions of the TV series were shot, is still a favourite tourist destination. With so much hype around the title alone, the film Malgudi Days starts on a high note. The movie may not be on par with the path-breaking serial, but it has its own interesting elements.
Writer Lakshmi Narayana Malgudi (Vijay Raghavendra) has announced his retirement from writing and his fans are heartbroken. The man, who lived his entire life creating wonderful memories for his readers, carries around a heavy heart but refuses to share with anyone the reason behind it. While his family suggests that he settle in a foreign land, Malgudi has other plans. He decides to go back to the place where he spent his childhood – Malgudi.
On the other hand, Prakruti (Greeshma), who has quit her job after reporting workplace harassment, is on the way to find herself. The two bump into each other and begin a journey together. En route, they narrate their stories to each other.
In the flashback, set in the 70s, Malgudi (a young Vijay Raghavendra), a studious Class 10 student, falls in love with Lenita. Her father, a cop, is recently transferred to Malgudi and the family is still in the process of settling down. Malgudi’s love for Lenita doubles when he finds out she is mute. Amidst all this, communal tension breaks out between Hindus and Christians in the town. While Lenita reciprocates Malgudi’s love, miscreants blame Lenita’s family for indulging in conversion. As the tension intensifies, Malgudi flees to Bengaluru. Forty years later, still in love with Lenita, he enters Malgudi with the hope of meeting her. But, will he succeed?
While the makers have repeatedly clarified that the movie has nothing to do with the book, the expectations of cine-goers remained high. The makers have tried to justify the title to an extent but fall just short of expectations because of poor editing at crucial twists and turns. In movies shot in the Malnad region of Karnataka’s Western Ghats, nostalgia evokes a certain sweet and painful emotion watching the rain while resting one’s head on windows/doors. The movie tries to portray the ambience and feel of Western Ghat villages but the artwork is not up to the mark. Though the heroine’s looks take the audience back to the 70s, it is not convincing.
Vijay Raghavendra doesn’t disappoint as an actor. A child protege, Vijay had won the National Award in 1994 and hasn’t turned back since then. He went on to become a seasoned actor and it shows in his performance in Malgudi Days. He fits both the characters – student and writer. He has taken great pains to appear normal with prosthetic makeup, which at times appears amateurish, as the older Malgudi character. In certain scenes, makeup appears to restrict his lip movements, but Vijay has been careful to outdo this struggle with his acting skills. His on-screen presence throughout the movie stands out.
Prakruti’s character needed better treatment because the love story seems to a small plug-in in the story. The actor Greeshma, who was earlier seen in Nathicharami, however, seems in control in whatever limited role she was assigned. But she needs to work on expressing intense emotions. Arjun Kapikad and Dhanraj CM have done their parts without much hoopla. A few other characters in the movie are forgettable.
Director Kishore Moodbidri could have made a better attempt at forging a stronger connection between the flashback and the present in the script. Editor Pradeep Nayak had scope for enhancing the quality of the final output by chopping off a few unnecessary scenes. He seems to have gotten along with the ride and let the slow pace try to impress the audience. The biggest drawback of the movie is the music by Gagan Baderia; it is just average as the songs make no impact.
Films that promise a nostalgic ride can be tricky as even with one small error they can be labelled an art film. My Autograph had walked this line carefully. While switching between present and past, the movie had managed to capture the audience’s undivided attention throughout. Comic relief too added to its success. But, Malgudi’s length, with no comic relief, puts the audience’s patience to the test at many places.
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.