Puttakkana Highway

Lifes pathway is neither smooth nor safe

Narmada Sarovar, Tehri, Nandigram, Singur, Nandagudi and many more. Unheard of, uncared for... Each place makes news (or ‘non-news’) which runs its course and dies, in many cases, a premature death. Lessons are learnt and discarded with speed. The conflict between development and displacement is always fodder for controversy. And for filmmakers too.

B Suresha taps into this conflict to make Puttakkana Highway, inspired by Nagtihalli Chandrashekhar’s (he has a cameo in the film as well) story Puttakkana Medical College. He has Shruti as Puttakka, the farmer who takes on the authorities while her life turns barren. Keeping her company are a host of actors whose very mention makes the audience sit up in anticipation. H M Ramachandra, Hamsalekha, Yogaraj Bhat and Jo Ni Harsha all enrich the experience which would otherwise have crumbled without much resistance.

Is it the screenplay reflecting present-day middle-class mindset, indifferent to others’ plight, or budget constraints? There is growing suspicion about even ‘art films’ losing their capability to convey messages and shape society – one of cinema’s fast disappearing functions.

Character-wise, Pinchalaiah, Nagananda Swamy, Ambu and even Chinnu float in a mindscape that expects more given the relevance of the subject. Sadly, the film fails to deliver.  

Puttakkana Highway is not just about displacement and other ‘weightier’ issues but also of the loss of the idyll of a woman of amazing grit. Shruti, as an actress is good but falls short of making the character her own. Ditto Prakash Rai, whose Shani Krishna’s advances upon Puttakka is hardly unnoticed. Indeed it appears as though most of the cast is only reacting to unseen cues. The absence of intensity or ‘feel’ is telling. It is Ambu, whose character is the most developed and Veena Sundar’s performance raises expectations of more. Only the sensitive can sift through staid pace and performances to appreciate the sub-texts. But what about those who are not exposed to such realities?
An honest effort no doubt, but Puttakkana Highway ultimately fails to bridge the urban-rural gap - a lost opportunity.

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