Fight against inequality gains currency

Mahasharana HaralaiahKannada (U) **Director: B A PurushothamaCast: Sridhar, Ramesh Aravind, Ramakrishna, Ramesh Bhat and others

The director burst onto the scene with Siddaganga, known for its detailing and retaining the essence of devotion intact. He followed it up with a “commercial dud” though the subject is still hot. And now, Purushothama returns with Mahasharana Haralaiah, which details the events leading up to the social revolution that took place in Kalyana during Basavanna’s time.

Centuries later, the effect of the social transformation is there for all to see, feel, experience and ponder upon. An interesting story waiting to be told, mostly for today’s youth not acquainted with the pioneering reformer and his movement.

For some, though, it’s a wake-up call of sorts with historical figures and their roles interchanged – a far cry from what their textbooks said. 

Coming back to the film, one cannot but wonder whether the director has a flair when it comes to choosing devotional subjects. His actors are more than competent, the “feel” is ever present and the overall film doesn't go overboard in preaching. 

In Mahasharana Haralaiah, he has actor Sridhar essay the title role. A very apt choice for, no other actor can display such range of emotions as this excellent proponent of dance in limited screen time. Be it the grieving son, the enlightened soul, the horror-struck follower or a determined man, Sridhar’s facial expressions and body language are something to experience.
 Coming close is Ramesh. The ever-smiling, guileless actor is Basavanna personified onscreen. A change from his usual roles, Ramesh takes to it well, making nothing of the effort to retain that simplicity in performance. Ramesh Bhat, Ramakrishna and others lend gravitas to their roles and the story. 

Most of the supporting actors are so competent that their performance seems natural – a huge plus for the film. The girls, especially those who play Basavanna’s wives, Haralaiah’s wife Kalyanamma and Sheelavanta’s wife – all show the bevy of local beauties with brain.

Music by Jimmy Raj tends to overwhelm the dialogues spoken softly and in a dignified manner at times. But the songs are soulful, making liberal use of the vachanas.

There’s little attention paid to lighting and even the sets – a modern day painting/embroidery work is found hanging in the living quarters of Manchanna and Bijjala’s palace, for instance, scream for some focus and camouflaging the obvious poverty in details.

Haralaiah’s story can be compared with the coming of Hobbits culminating in the War of the Ring and the passing of the Third Age. And the devout will definitely find enough to feel good about in this film. It’s just a matter of making up the mind though.

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