Director: Abhaya Simha
Cast: Mohan Sheni, Bindu Raxidi, Chandrahas Ulla, Gopinath Bhat, Avinash Rai
Paddayi, Abhaya Simha's fourth feature film, is set in a beautiful coastal village. The story of Madhava and Sugandhi, the Macbeth couple, also encompasses the fishing community caught up in the whirlwind of new economy and modernisation.
Madhava is part of a group of fishermen headed by Dineshanna who continues with traditional fishing using wooden boats while others practice aggressive methods to the detriment of the environment. Madhava is an able fisherman contributing immensely to the wealth of Dineshanna while Sugandhi is drawn to the imported perfumes which only the rich can afford.
The prophecies, as in the original, drives the story. But the spectre of a native deity (bhootha kola) commands action not through fear and greed but through devotion and submission.
Madhava feels compelled to carry out the prophecy not just for personal gain but because it is ordained. It becomes his duty leading him, along with Sugandhi, into the darkest of moments. This version of the prophecy is a brilliant recasting of the original. It enhances the complexities in its realisation.
Poverty drives the ambition and greed of the couple thrusting them into a hitherto inaccessible new world. The royal hierarchy in the Shakespeare's original is transposed into fine-grained hues of modern India. The impetus to act is forged by economic and social pressures.
Madhava, after the second prophecy, becomes submissive. This takes away the protagonist’s struggle to redeem himself. The original Macbeth's feeling of invincibility is absent here. The "death by sea" prophechy seems too simple. Even so, if Madhava stopped going on fishing expeditions and turned to modern methods of fishing to save himself, his struggle would have intensified.
The portrayal of the Mogaveera fishing community is authentic. As the story unfolds the beautiful seaside images take on a haunting mood. Abhaya Simha reconstructs Macbeth effectively weaving them into his visual narrative.
The recurring image of the fish gasping on the floor of the boat is one of the many such poetic reflections on Madhava's tragic situation. The scenes of the Yakshagana performers chatting under the lights of the chowki (dressing room) is symbiotic with the main story in multiple ways.
The narrative style fits nicely to a lingering pace. But the editing (Prashant Pandit) seems to hasten at times. The traditional 'bhootha kola' music (Kadri Manikanth) contributes to the ambience and to the mood of the film.
But the music pieces, with elaborate orchestration, seem too overt for the style of the film. Apart from compelling visuals of the outdoor scenes, the cinematographer (Vishnu Prasad P) has shown adeptness in the interior shots too. The sync sound dialogues (Jamie Dsilva, Shishira KV) adds immensely to the acting realism.
It is refreshing to see the characters merge effortlessly into the surroundings of a fishing village. It is a testament not only to the casting and makeup, but also to the acting itself.
Mohan Sheni as Madhava, Bindu Raxidi as Sugandhi and Gopinath Bhat as Dineshanna stand out in their performances. Bannanje's character has more shades of complexity than the others, which is portrayed with nuance by Chandrahas Ullal.
Paddayi leaves us in no doubt that you can expect many more sensitive films from Abhaya Simha in the future.