It was around this time three years ago Raj B Shetty entered the star-obsessed Kannada film industry as the unlikely ‘egg-headed’ lead in Ondu Motteya Kathe (Story of an egg). The film followed a bald Kannada professor from Mangaluru played by Raj (who also wrote the film) and his attempts to get married even as he, and the people around him, are way too obsessed with beauty that runs skin-deep.
For many, the film's success came as a surprise and it was no different for Raj, who had chanced upon a life in cinema. He went from being a radio jockey in Mangaluru to doing voice overs for advertisements. When there was a shortage of scriptwriters for writing ads, he volunteered and realised he enjoyed writing. He picked up aspects of film-making by observing and interacting with artistes on ad-shoots.
But it was a struggle before his first film was actually produced. He wrote many scripts (in both Tulu and Kannada) which were rejected or shelved by producers. But Ondu Motteya Kathe caught the attention of Suhan Prasad who suggested that Raj should turn the idea into a feature film; and Pawan Kumar of Lucia fame who came on-board after the film was made.
Looking back, it was the sincerity of Raj’s performance as an actor and the subtle exchanges between the characters, all rooted in reality, which helped the film win over audiences and strike gold in the awards circuit.
OMK follows Janardhana, a Kannada lecturer in Mangaluru who is eager to get married. The only issue is that arranged marriage suitors have a problem with his bald head. So, he decides to shun his brokers and find love, hoping to meet a girl who overlooks his bald head. But he is not exactly someone with a clear conscience since he is obsessed with meeting a ‘beautiful’ girl himself.
The film also introduces the genius of Prakash Thuminad, who portrays Srinivas, a peon and Janardhana’s love guru. He hilariously inserts himself into Janardhana’s quest for love. For instance, Janardhana reads out his heart-felt attempt at a love letter to Srinivas, who responds by suggesting that he give the love letter along with a dictionary to understand what is in it. Srinivas then proceeds to edit the love letter and adds words like 'dear' to the discomfort of the shy and fragile Janardhana.
Raj Shetty and Prakash Thuminad
There are other instances of irony and comic relief which drives the film. When Janardhana asks a guruji to lie about his horoscope for Rs 3,000, the guruji is affronted and asks whether he thinks astrology is like playing a game of ludo. But when Janardhana is leaving, the guruji asks him to leave Rs 3,000 on the table.
The plot follows Janardhan’s pursuit of a colleague portrayed by Amrutha Naik, who says that she is looking to meet someone whose beauty runs more than skin-deep. But like most characters in the film, what they say is undercut by what they do. The colleague is swept away by a 'good looking' English lecturer who arrives at the college.
Janardhana is also taken for a ride by Moha, a girl who wants to market products aimed at bald people, before he eventually meets Sarala (played by Shailashree). Even though Sarala actually likes Janardhana because he seems to be nice, all Janardhana can do is complain about how she is fat.
Janardhana is also a character filled with insecurities and is portrayed as the everyday Mangalurean man who is shy and unwilling to express his feelings. For every significant moment in the film, Janardhana is urged into taking action either by Srinivas or by his mother or brother or even Dr Rajkumar, whose photos and old songs are used as a glimpse into Janardhana’s mind. Janardhana, being a Kannada lecturer, is a big fan of Dr Rajkumar and his songs. Even during the film’s climax scene, when Janardhana decides to pursue Sarala, it is his brother who urges him to act.
Amrutha Naik and Raj Shetty
The cast managed to tell a simple story with heart-warming sincerity and three years since the film’s release, it continues to stand out as a fine example of a realistic Kannada film, so much that it has spawned remakes in Malayalam -Thamaasha - and in Hindi - Ujda Chaman.
Even Raj Shetty, whose career took off after the release of OMK, has done films like Gubbi Mele Brahmastra, where he is once again looking to get married, and Mayabazar 2016, where he changes tack and portrays a confident small-time crook. But to this day, he is still remembered as the ‘egg-head’ who charmed his way into Kannada audiences with Ondu Motteya Kathe.