Director: Karthik Saragur
Cast: Aravinnd Iyer, Achyuth Kumar, Arohi Narayan, Priyanka Thimmesh
By now, we are well aware of the techniques behind filming food. A fine amalgamation of colours, camera angles, light, and music offers an eye-pleasing experience. Films based on food often lift our spirits. After all, the recipe for a happy soul is good food, isn’t it?
Karthik Saragur chooses food as a metaphor for life and its philosophies in his second directorial venture. There is nothing to dislike in the first 40 minutes of ‘Bheemasena Nalamaharaja’. The story of a passionate chef Latthesha (Aravinnd Iyer) is layered and beautifully shot (by Ravindranath).
The narrative deserves its unhurried pace and it comes with lip-smacking wordplay. Sample some of them: “Every morsel of butter 'dosa' feels like a step closer to heaven.” “Who is this virtuous soul concealed within the warmth of her mother’s love?” “I use my hand to measure ingredients while I am cooking. Can’t I measure the true nature of a person through my eyes?” Translations often don’t have the same essence as the originals. The clean Kannada, devoid of urban lingo, feels like a blessing to the atmospheric tone of the film. So far, so good!
Just when you feel Saragur is a filmmaker with a strong disregard for generic themes, you are proven wrong. Once the drama kicks in, ‘Bheemsena Nalamaharaja’ stumbles and never recovers. For a film that astutely avoided melodrama in its earlier portions, it’s shocking to see it get deep-fried in it later.
The plot-twist is stale. In commercial cinema, for how long will we see a central character lose his or her memory due to an accident? The characters are akin to under-cooked varieties in a huge ‘thaali’. The strange narrative detours offer minimal entertainment. We feel disconnected from the story’s drama, romance, and tragedy.
In the performances, Aravinnd is fine but Arohi Narayan plays her role in an over the top manner. It’s hard to differentiate if it’s the script’s doing or it’s just the acting frailty. There is another grouse. Filming children isn’t easy. Nine out of 10 times, they come across annoying. It’s not right to blame the little ones. They do what the directors say and deliver lines given to them. The onus is on the filmmaker to hone their skills and extract a natural performance.
If you continue to forgive the shortcomings of ‘Bheemasena Nalamaharaja’ it’s because of Charan Raj. How good is he? He has a tune for every mood. The composer experiments in every film and keeps getting better.
The climax, somewhat, salvages the film. It’s well-thought-out but you can definitely see it coming from a distance. Saragur, who debuted with the critically acclaimed ‘Jeerjimbe’ (2016), leaves us wanting for more in his sophomore flick.
Films like ‘Ustad Hotel’ and ‘Salt N’ Pepper’ were special not because it had food at the centre. These stories revolved around heart-warming characters. Their genuine emotions touched us. ‘Bheemasena Nalamaharaja' drives home the point that love is the crucial ingredient for cooking. Wish the film believed in the idea of ‘memorable characters is the vital ingredient for a good film’.
For the names involved (produced by Pushkara Mallikarjuniah, Rakshit Shetty and Hemanth Rao), the film was highly anticipated. But watching ‘Bheemasena Nalamaharaja’ is like walking out of a restaurant after a crispy starter and a tasty dessert to remember. The main course is forgettable.