Rohith, who plays the protagonist, has done a tremendous job and might well become the Master Manjunath of this generation.

Ondalla Eradalla review A heart-warming tale of a boy and his lost cow
Flix Sandalwood Friday, August 24, 2018 - 11:53

Films with children as the protagonists are rare these days. And it’s surprising that two of them are hitting the screens this week – the other one is Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai.

All we keep getting is a mix of action, romance, horror, and comedy films. But, for Kannada cinema, 2018 has been a mixed bag. While Tagaru and Gultoo gave reasons for fans of the thriller genre to cheer about, Katheyondu Shuruvagide brought a wave of freshness to love stories. Now, director D Satya Prakash is adding a film to that mix with his latest kid-on-the-run film, Ondalla Eradalla.

Much like Satya’s debut film Rama Rama ReOndalla Eradalla unfolds mostly on the streets. If Imtiaz Ali takes his actors and cameras to Europe and the freezing climes of Kashmir, Satya does that too, though within the boundaries of Karnataka.

Sameera, the seven-year-old hero (played by Rohith), is a brat who sends his father, sister, and neighbours on a chase to find him as he takes off on a weird journey to look for his missing friend – a cow named Bhanu. Even as that one-liner summarises the two-hour movie, Satya digs deep to portray the many relationships that his little-wonder-like protagonist shares with his fellow zany characters.

While a moneylender takes Sameera hostage from a mini-truck driver without realising that he’s not the latter’s son, a cunning man calls up Sameera’s sister to tell her that her brother will be returned to her family only if he gets a cow in exchange.

Satya uses the formula of the setup-and-reveal to write these sub-stories well. Before the boy-for-cow ransom episode, there’s a scene where the cunning man watches a video of a temple priest saying that donating a cow might help people in begetting children. This man, named Huli because of his avatar on the last day of the election campaign, has been making the rounds of hospitals and temples, along with his wife, to ask doctors and numerous gods to grant him his wish. So, when he asks Sameera’s sister for a cow, you know why!

Similarly, an early scene shows an old man showering affection on a child who is not his and that plot-point is picked up later for an emotional trip involving the cunning man. Without the short scenes that set us up for these moments, there wouldn’t have been much for us to connect these stray dots. Even the camaraderie between Sameera and Bhanu follows the same pattern and that’s how you know that the director has left no room for loose ends.

Despite the fabric of the film being ‘unity in diversity’ – Sameera is a Muslim loved by Hindu neighbours, and the old man is David, a Christian – Satya doesn’t stay away from caricaturising the symbolic elements that represent Christians and the Muslims. As the film introduces the English-speaking David, the camera focusses on the huge cross on the wall and, likewise, Sameera’s family is seen doing namaaz when we see them. However, the introduction shots of the Hindu characters – the neighbour Rajanna (Prabhudeva Hosadurga) or the mini-truck driver Suresha (Nagabhushana) – do not have anything remarkable to show which religion they belong to.

Although the verbal references to Sameera being a Muslim are only a handful, the background music (by Vasuki Vaibhav and Nobin Paul), such as adding an ‘Allahu Akbar’ when Sameera calls a priest at the temple ‘Maulvi sahab’, are aplenty. In that sense, only David and Sameera’s family are seen as the “others” in the movie.

Yet, it’s heart-warming to watch a bunch of grown men and women run around to catch hold of a kid they all love. And, for his part, Rohith has done a tremendous job, and he might well become the Master Manjunath of this generation.

I don’t know if films like Ondalla Eradalla will turn hard-core casteists into soft-spoken seculars, but it’s a great leap for Kannada cinema and even more so for children’s films in Indian cinema.

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.

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