Prakash Raj's nervous energy and Priyamani's spirited performance make the film a good watch.

Review In Idolle Ramayana a respectable man learns modest life lessons from a sex worker Screenshot from trailer
Features Film Review Saturday, October 08, 2016 - 13:31

“Idolle Ramayana” has that singular quality that has often made Kannada cinema such a pleasing proposition in the past – charming modesty. Directed by and starring Prakash Raj, the film won’t be winning any prizes for great new insights into the human condition.

But watching “Idolle Ramayana”, you get the idea that the film doesn’t so much want to overturn and shipwreck our popular moralities as give them a gentle nudge in a different direction. And it is this restraint from over-promising that makes the film worth a watch.

A remake of the Malayam film “Shutter”, “Idolle Ramayana” revolves around Bhujanga (Prakash Raj), the Dubai-returned, god-fearing, conventionally moralistic patriarch who finds himself disturbed by his daughter’s inching towards freedom after she joins college. With his Dubai gains, he has also become the big man around town, sponsoring local religious celebrations and earning the town’s respect.

His world, however, threatens to unravel when a drunken impulse one night leaves him locked up with a sex worker in his abandoned shop, one street away from his home and in a busy market area for a night and a day. Petrified by the possibility of discovery and ruin to his name, Bhujanga must keep the sex worker (Priyamani, who remains nameless through the film) in good spirits until his auto-driver and man Friday (Aravind Kuplikar) can let them out without anyone knowing.

With a National Award each, Priyamani and Prakash Raj are both more than adequate performers to carry on their shoulders what is not quite a revolutionary change in worldviews but a small yet heartening shift.

Predictably, their encounter begins with sparks as the patriarch finds himself undone by the overt, assertive sexuality of the sex worker. By the end of their time together, though, they’ve both discarded their socially-conditioned lenses to see each other with a certain measure of respect and even a hint of affection. And Bhujanga has seen and heard enough to realise that his view of his daughter needs to move to a different track.

Prakash Raj’s nervous energy is what makes this encounter worth watching. He brings to the character all of the fragile insecurity of the middle-class male, and some much needed self-deprecation that lets us feel his anxiety even as we see the correction that his perceptions need. Priyamani too ticks many boxes, taking a very predictably written character, and giving her the edge she needs to catch and hold our attention.

Perhaps the one irritating part of their encounter is the script’s insistence on having Priyamani’s character repeatedly state that Bhujanga is a good man at heart despite his flaws. Saying it out in that manner actually reinforces the idea of the “good man” that the film is trying to unravel, even if only slightly.

Outside of this one-room shop, the camera follows around the mishaps of the man Friday and his reluctant companion on his adventures, a down-on-his-luck director (Achyuth Kumar) who takes on the role of a smug observer to life’s foibles. While these events help keep the interactions between Prakash Raj and Priyamani from becoming too intense, they could perhaps have been given more depth on their own, rather than simply functioning as plot devices and comic relief.

Of course, one does enjoy the smugness being wiped off Achyuth Kumar, when he finds his own world being shaken by a revelation at the climax of the film.

None of the characters in the film is so affected by the happenings of one night and a day that their lives are altered irremediably. Instead they all come off reasonably unharmed, but slightly nicer to the people around them at the end of the day. And that, perhaps, is not at all a bad journey of a couple of hours for the viewer to make. 

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