When hope turns into torment

December 1 

Kannada (U)¬¬¬¬Director: P SheshadriCast: Niveditha, Santhosh Uppina, Shantabai Patil, Shashikumar and others

It’s morning, but sun rays hardly penetrate the kitchen where the flames of the hearth throw light on Devakka’s face, flush with exertion, the sweat beads forming a tattoo of their own.

There are jogtis who come singing good wishes and prayers for their daily alms, 8-year-old Kiran with his Ajji, whose vision is becoming hazy as the days go by. A baby’s cooing is heard from a makeshift tottilu while father Mahadevappa limps in to have breakfast. 

This scene could be (and is still being) played out in any household of Karnataka. Or Maharashtra. Or Tamil Nadu. Or Andhra Pradesh. Or Punjab – with a slight difference. Soon, the scene changes as the chief minister of the state decides to visit the family, sample their food and stay with them for the night.

Total strangers descend upon them, uncaring and arrogant with agendas of their own, taking charge of the family’s life, transforming their living quarters while allowing just a peep into their own desires, ambitions and machinations.

 Each one wants a share in the Fortune pie whether the ‘beneficiaries’ are ready or not. It’s time to make as much hay as possible in the brief period of sunshine falling on their already parched and scorched existence. Does anyone care what happens to the family?

Their social and mental fabric is changed forever with disastrous consequences – thanks in no small measure to present-day media hounds shorn of sensitivity, grace and discretion and which has no qualms in persecuting those interested in their own small, mundane existence.

Based on a true story, December 1 is director P Sheshadri’s best offering yet. Hitting the right balance between involvement and detachment, the director’s take on this story is limited to documentation of a few days in Devakka’s family. This may annoy some but there is definitely room for interpretation, hopefully leading to introspection and transformation for the better. 

There is little drama, but plenty of trauma – in the eyes of Kiran, who loses his precious new pairs of slippers and shoes and who’s made to sit separately in school and have lunch served on leaves, in his father’s hung head and defeated expression and finally in Devakka’s burning eyes that are hurt beyond anything known.

Santhosh Uppina, Niveditha nee Smitha, Shantabai Patel, even Nataraj and Preeti Nagaraj – all bring life’s innocence, glory, organised cruelty and  what not in such spontaneous manner that the audience flinches when the “change” hits them. 

Manohar’s music provides fillip to the story without intruding at all. Ashok Raman’s camerawork yet again shows how underrated he is. Vastrada’s dialogues flavour the story well.

December 1 shouldn’t get restricted to a few late-night shows in multiplexes. It is one of those rare films that shake up anyone with a conscience. Do watch it.

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