A messenger's tale that shaped Indian history

Sangolli Rayanna
Kannada (U/A)
Cast: Darshan, Jayaprada, Shashi Kumar, Umashri and many others
Director: Naganna

The words historical films, once upon a time, conjured up images of thespian Rajkumar essaying several classic roles, firmly etched into memory.
And then they have for long sent producers bankrupt and kept viewers dissatisfied and disillusioned. The last such attempt, Gandugali Kumara Rama made even thinking of such projects daunting.

Viewed in this context, Sangolli Rayanna seems a clear winner. With State-wide collections exceeding expectations, historical figures do seem to be making a comeback into public consciousness. Whether they remain there to shape constructive opinion or turn into another tool of derision for depraved minds is yet to be seen.

But with Rayanna, comparisons are inevitable. Indeed, Rani Chennamma’s Kappa dialogue is a consciously-watered-down-many-times version of the one rendered oh-so- passionately by B Saroja Devi in Kittur Rani Chennamma decades earlier.

Coming from Jayaprada, who by the way, is an apt choice among her contemporaries to play the valiant Queen of Kittur, the dialogues still resound with able help from voice artiste Shashikala. The still-beautiful Jayaprada lends her character much needed dignity befitting the first Indian ruler to defy the British.

It is now time for Darshan, as Rayanna, to roar. Which he does. Literally. Assuming superhuman proportions in the battle against Thackeray’s English forces, Darshan unleashes a violent fury that is shocking to say the least. The Censor Board has been quite accommodative. Naganna is also quite mindful of the Challenging Star’s image and soon, his previous avatars peep out at various stages, garbed under the righteous anger and frustration of a devoted freedom fighter.

The dialogues, where Keshavaditya (who has done a splendid job otherwise) has taken some freedom, also take his role to a different level history can still be altered, you see. Darshan’s character, though a far cry from his mass-driven roles, begs to be elevated to that exalted level genuine heroes are placed upon. However, the pace of the film which is nearly three hours long doesn’t let anyone sit still. So absorbing is the screenplay, flaws and all, that it is only towards the climax, that one begins to see that the story is sagging.

However, while some may be offended the way Rayanna’s end is picturised, the attempt to humanise and depict reality should also be appreciated.

Sangolli Rayanna clicks in many ways and not just due to its dialogues, that border on jingoism sometimes. Harikrishna’s background score obscures Yeshovardhan’s tunes. Ramesh Babu’s camerawork is adequate. Palani Raj and Ravivarma’s action choreography is well planned and executed. Deepu S Kumar’s work is exemplary.

After a long time, a period drama has got its casting right. Avinash, Shashi Kumar, Rajesh, Umashri, Shivakumar, Saurav, Srinivasamurthy, Ramesh Bhat – all try to outdo each other. Poor Nikitha is reduced to just a one-song (wholly unnecessary) wonder. She is conveniently cast aside and is almost forgotten. Why bring her on board then? Darshan shows good improvement but is yet to overcome his diction impediment.

Ultimately, Sangolli Rayanna is one man’s passion realised with equal determination by others. That passion, in this case, is easily transferred to the viewer and set the cash box ringing. Kudos Keshavaditya and team.

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