Kabaddi is Narendra Babu and Khandaya-Vistara’s first outing of mainstream cinema. Delays, squabbles, changes, fund crunch — the team saw it all. It is but natural to think that the outcome be severely affected. Is it? Na. For, Kabaddi comes as a fresh air, a cool breeze in the midst of sweltering heat in a fish market.

This tale of an underdog overcoming challenges to win the coveted prize — his sweetheart — is endearing to say the least. The director and his team are to be lauded for a neat screenplay, gripping narration and most essentially keeping things simple. Speeches are unnecessary where a kabaddi match can decide fate!

 Dialogues by the director and Hoo Pattanashetty are like icing on the cake. Without resorting to cheap punchlines, the duo bring to life the robustness and stoicity of the people of North Karnataka and the stubborn self-belief of Mandya lads.

That the district also nurtures kabaddi, one of the most popular games, eclipsed by the tamasha called cricket, is strictly kept incidental.

By doing so, the director has struck a balance between his love story and his desire to promote a beautiful game. His choices are also interesting with former India captain and Arjuna awardee B C Ramesh leading other players including hero Praveen, to lend that authentic touch.

Joining them are some promising talent from theatre — like C G K Kiran, for instance. Getting all these people to shed their inhibitions and self-consciousness along with managing a fairly accommodative crowd is no mean achievement for Babu.
Kabaddi also boasts cinematography by a clutch of cinematographers — whether by design or whim is not certain. But they disprove the adage that too many cooks spoil the broth.

Indeed, this broth is heady with deft and agile camera work mixed with a reasonable amount of DI work. The songs, shot in and around Mandya, Theerthahalli and Karwar are beautiful. Action scenes too are rooted with no ‘superhuman’ stunts.

Among actors, Dharma’s is a well-developed role, enabling him to channelise his enjoyment and energise his character. Avinash and Sriraksha, in their limited time, don’t seem out of place. The kabaddi players, Old Town Channa and Yaase are a delight.
Kishore as coach Beeresha Gulakimath is subdued, but effective. Priyanka suits her role to a T. The fire in her eyes dazzles out her other shortcomings, if any.

As for Praveen, it is difficult to ask him to straddle both sports and acting in future. A fine hero for such a story. Family viewing recommended.

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