Sandalwood
There's plenty to like in the film but one gets the feeling that the director doesn't seem to know when to hold back.

There’s a bus ride to Chennai where the girl might finally fall in love with the boy who’s loved her for years. But as the bus trundles its way down the highways, there are scam-tainted politicians conniving with regionalist goons to incite trouble with a neighbouring state so that the media forgets about scams in the heat of riots.

Will love blossom or will hate triumph?

Set out in a three-line summary, Rajaratha sounds like the script for a powerful emotional rollercoaster. Unfortunately, though, Anup and Nirup Bhandari, who found fame with Rangitharanga just end up trying too hard on their latest outing. So, everything in Rajaratha is amped up to 11 right from the start. That’s not always the worst thing. The single-song montage in a mist-kissed locale to sum up Abhi’s (Nirup Bhandari) four years in engineering, for instance, skips all the half-hearted awkwardness you usually in Kannada movies’ depictions of college life.

Then there’s the forest paradise that Abhi and Megha (Avantika Shetty) manage to lose themselves in during their excessively eventful bus ride. A cinematographer’s fondest dreams, these locations are paired up with a lovely musical score to deliver some exciting songs and interludes. Similarly, at the other end, Arya’s Vishal has a righteous temper that brings a keen edge to some of the key scenes of the political drama.

Unfortunately, though, director Anup just doesn’t seem to have a sense of when to hold back. So, Abhi and Megha’s love story takes some bizarre detours, thanks to the strange connections that the script tries to force between our hero and all the other people on the bus. And a lot of the budding romance itself, which is supposed to come across and adorable and endearing, seems either silly or sometimes creepy.

Take the torch our hero has kept burning for the heroine for years, for instance. Underneath all the cutesy posturing, there’s a stalkerish turn that gets ignored. And while there are some jokes that work: the digs that Abhi’s character takes at mass film heroes, for instance, draw more than a chuckle. But close behind are bits of toilet humour that hit a little too much below the belt.

And thanks to all the time and energy that gets spent on the love story, the political drama gets shortchanged. So when the two suddenly and violently clash, you can’t help but feel that things escalated quickly. The climactic sequence passes by in such a rush that you feel let down at the end of it all.

On the acting front, Nirup manages to light up the screen in flashes, while Avantika is also fairly competent. Arya shows glimpses of an exciting character, but doesn’t really get the chance to flex his acting muscles enough. Ravishankar’s unlikely character holds the potential for an interesting take, but like much else in the film ends up overdone.

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.