Rishab Shetty is back with his home production, this time directing a film that can be broadly classified as a children's film, but it also deals with sociological repercussions of minority voices being suppressed. The film tries to capture the heart and soul of Kasaragod, where people from Karnataka are struggling to keep their mother tongue alive. It manages to paint a beautiful canvas, though one wonders if the film ended up being a few minutes too long to put forth that message.
The film begins with an introduction to the many quirky characters in the town. There are a bunch of children who lead their carefree lives while also trying to study in their government-aided Kannada medium school. The school is suddenly shut down by greedy government officials, which gets the Kannada population agitated. The children take it upon themselves to ensure that they reopen their school and seek the help of a person from Mysuru to fight their case. Will they succeed?
The film beautifully captures the essence of the land and the people there. The language and the eccentricities of the characters are a treat to watch. The music and the visuals are a delight to the senses. The essence of the film has been pretty much revealed in the trailer. So, one wonders if the narrative takes too long to arrive at the problem at hand. The first half is narrated in a breezy manner, though the second half ends up a little too long. It does pick up after the introduction of Anant Nag's character, who ensures the fun and laughs are soon restored.
The children in the film are a treat to watch. They are every bit the characters they are playing and seem to take to the camera with ease. Pramod Shetty and Prakash Thuminad also deliver the laughs and are praiseworthy. Anant Nag is a hoot onscreen, reminiscent of his 90s self. His limited banter with Ramesh Bhat and his gags in the film make one yearn for more of him.
Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai is not an edgy commercial film, but it does have scenes that have an edge over the run-of-the-mill tales. If the narrative was a little tighter, it could have been nearly flawless. Nevertheless, this is one sweet outing, if you like to watch cinema as a holistic experience and not as just a two-hour-plus getaway. The sociological message it narrates is real and could be relevant to any town in the border of any Indian state where language can be is at risk because of man-made boundaries.