Rajaratha: a pleasant ride with a few bumps

Rajaratha: a pleasant ride with a few bumps

Film: Rajaratha

Director: Anup Bhandari

Starring: Nirup Bhandari, Avantika Shetty, Ravishankar and Arya.

Rating: 3

Rajaratha carried hype. Massive hype! Anup Bhandari, like a couple of others in Sandalwood, joined the list of architects of new wave Kannada cinema with his near-perfect thriller Rangitharanga three years ago. Generally, the second project of a successful debutant is closely watched and Anup's burden only increased when he retained a large portion of his team from Rangitharanga.

With Rajaratha, starring his brother Nirup Bhandari, Arya, Avantika Shetty and Ravishankar in prominent roles, Anup has attempted to strike a balance between three genres romance, drama and musical. The story lacks big ambition but it's the presentation that reveals Anup's fine film-making skills. A mediocre film has too many glitches but a good film stumbles on a few occasions while managing to hold its own due to its sincerity. Rajaratha falls in the latter category.

The film opens with Rajaratha (brilliantly voiced by Puneeth Rajkumar), the bus, that carries the main characters as they embark on a journey to Chennai. Anup tweaks the conventional narrative style, something that's become fashionable among young directors. Even as we learn about the lives of the lead pair Abhi (Nirup) and Megha (Avantika), the film also moves to the tale of Vishwa (Arya), head of a Praja Rakshana Dal, who gets sucked into a political conspiracy. The strength of the first half are the co-travellers in the bus, whose characters are fascinating, laced with humour and smartly linked to the stories of Abhi and Megha.

Anup, who doubles as a music director, doesn't seem to have learnt from his mistakes in Rangitharanga. The songs are oddly placed, slowing the pace of the film and do not strike a chord. The tribute to yesteryear Kannada hit songs that is blended nicely with the story somewhat restores balance. While watching the college romance, it's tough not to think of Karan Johar. Even as the richness of these scenes, shot neatly by William David, isn't as claustrophobic and pretentious as seen in KJo films, Anup still has a lot to learn from the veteran Bollywood director when it comes to executing intense romantic scenes. Nirup, thankfully, is less stiffer and emotes better throughout his second outing.

The film hits high notes on emotions during the climax that bridges the gap between the stories of Vishwa and the lead pair. There is a message but it's not preachy. Arya proves why he is such a bankable actor while the talented Ajaneesh Lokanath, who breathed freshness into music with Kirik Party, yet again shows he is the future with his excellent background score. Anup has dared to keep 'cinema' above star value and he does a decent job.

Vivek MV

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