Director: Yogaraj Bhat
Cast: Vihaan Gowda, Sonal Monteiro, Rangayana Raghu, Akshara Gowda
The creative thinker in Yogaraj Bhat still shines bright. He is a master of ideas but the writing, over the years, has suffered from inconsistency.
Panchatantra has an array of interesting characters. The film's hero (Vihaan) is an overconfident yet a child-at-heart young racer. Sonal plays a conservative middle-class woman, torn between being an ideal daughter and a committed lover. Akshara Gowda as Artha is the best of the lot but the least explored. When did we last see a Kannada film heroine owning a garage?
There is an old brigade led by Rangayana Raghu which is at loggerheads with these youngsters. The film deals with the problems of generation gap with car rallying playing a pivotal role in the story. Bhat takes a while to get to the point and that makes for a middling first-half. Of course, many scenes crack you up, but is that enough?
What still saves the first-half from being a drab fest is the love story. Again, Bhat has lip-smacking ideas. And he backs them up with his trademark crackling one-liners. He makes a few of today's Kannada filmmakers seem outdated with his realistic treatment. The couple talk sex with no inhibitions. The hero has an art of unhooking his girl's bra even when she is clothed. 'Swalpa bold aitu,' commented a man sitting behind me. But that's Bhat. Quirky yet very real.
Once the second-half kicks in, Bhat is in his element. The story, written by Maasthi and Kaddipudi Kantharaj, is rewarded as the screenplay finds its rhythm. The film subtly weaves in messages on life, love and sacrifice. The car rally is breathtakingly shot by Sugnan and is the film's highlight.
Vihaan's notorious mannerisms are convincing. He emotes brilliantly in the climax, but struggles in the romantic scenes. Rangayana Raghu, as usual, is terrific and walks away as the best performer in Panchatantra. Despite his limited screen time, Deepak Shetty brilliantly underplays Bond, an experienced racer.
Panchatantra could have been a great movie, but it settles to be a decent one. But at a time when experienced directors are fumbling with their creative ropes, it's laudable that Bhat has made an interesting film that's definitely worth a watch.