Dhananjaya in Kotee
Dhananjaya in Kotee

Kotee review: Dhananjaya shines in an earnest, well-rounded film about money

How would someone who lives at the mercy of a villainous rich man react if the said man was out to get him? That’s Kotee’s story in a single line. But, debutant director Param’s Dhananjaya starrer is so much more.
Kotee (Kannada)(4 / 5)

Dhananjaya wears conscientiousness very lightly on his shoulder. Many see him as a macho star, or a good boy next door who metamorphoses into a mass hero, but I’ve always felt there is an endearing earnestness to him, a tender side that few directors have tapped into. That wait comes to an end with director Param’s debut film Kotee, which taps into Dhananjaya’s softness, while also allowing him to indulge in some fistfights.

Kotee (Dhananjaya) has one principle — to never cheat, lie or shortchange anyone. His goal is to earn a crore rupees (kotee) and pull his family out of a lower middle-class existence. The father is long dead (a lovely cameo by Duniya Vijay), and Kotee’s family consists of mother aayi (Tara doing what only she can do) who runs a snacks shop, brother Nachchi (Pruthvi Shamanur), and perky sister Mahathi (Thanuja Venkatesh). He’s an all-in-one handyman — he carries loads, ferries stuff, shifts homes — never saying no to honest work. 

What makes Kotee different from other mass entertainers is the effort Param puts into the writing and dialogues. 

It is more show than tell. And, never once is ice candy-loving Kotee’s honesty given a mass build-up. You’re just shown a bunch of incidents that reinforce how he leads his life. His logic is simple — you can live your life the way you want, let me live mine the way I want to.

So, how will a film filled with such nicety get an antagonist? Yes, there’s Dinoo Saavkar (a menacing Ramesh Indira), but Kotee pays him every day, on time. What would the conflict be about?

A chance display of ability by Kotee both enrages and charms Dinoo, who uses every rule in the book to get Kotee to his life of gang wars, suparis, and crime. Will Kotee ever progress by sticking to his stand or will he join the rule benders club? And, if he has to bend, who will be that person who nudges him towards it?

Kotee, the film, has been written with a lot of love, and respect for the audience. Every scene ties in with a previous one or one that follows. This is not a film that spoonfeeds. You need to be involved to link the dots and derive joy from that action. 

There’s an unusual pairing for a love story — between a chartered accountant and someone who does all kinds of work — but the wonderful thing is that both meet from a place of genuine respect and understanding for the other. And thanks to Param for not writing patriarchy and misogyny into the film. 

There are two scenes where the camera, in another director’s film, might have lingered on a certain body part, but this team desists. Kudos to that. 

The dialogues are natural, with zero punch dialogues. So so refreshing. And, there’s a line about 24-carat gold by Navami (Moksha Kushal), the girl Kotee likes, that’s truly precious. She too has a backstory and is no arm candy.

How would someone who lives at the mercy of a villainous rich man react if the said man was out to get him? That’s Kotee’s story in a single line. But, the film is so much more. 

Music by Vasuki Vaibhav is pleasant to the ears, but I loved Nobin Paul’s background score a lot more. Remember him from 777 Charlie?

Arunbhrama’s cinematography impresses, especially during the climax portions — set in a theatre that has been usurped and turned into a gangster’s house. Editor Pratheek Shetty paces the film well, allowing certain scenes to breathe and others to speed past at a furious pace. There’s a tension knot in the stomach wondering what new horror will fall on Kotee. The stunt choreography by Dinesh Subbarayan, Vikram Mor, and Arjun Raaj adds to that effect. The blows land, blunt, and you know they will hurt. When a director makes you feel for his characters, that’s half the battle won. Costume designer Harini Ramakrishna's work is understated, befitting the setting of the film. But extra marks for those zari-lined lungis that Ramesh Indira wears so well.

And yes, Ramesh Indira proves Sapta Sagaradaache Ello was no fluke and that he’s here to stay. God knows how many sleepless nights he’s going to cause with his smirks that hide more than they reveal. Emotions dance on his face. And, finally, this is also a film that understands that without a strong antagonist, your protagonist pales. 

It is evident that the team tried to make a well-rounded film and not a mass commercial film that ticks all existing tropes. As a result, there are enough clap-worthy moments without the cringe. And, there’s enough creativity and technical knowledge to take the film past the winning line. I’m already looking forward to Param’s next.

When such films do well, directors and stars will be tempted to turn filmmakers, actors, and actresses again. 

Subha J Rao is an entertainment journalist covering Tamil and Kannada cinema and is based out of Mangaluru, Karnataka.

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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