Nutshell Ramble

A fairly decent but overlong film with a contrived message that loses steam when it really matters the most.

OVERALL SCORE – 3-stars

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Full Ramble

Chowka is a 2017 Kannada drama film written and directed by Tharun Kishore Sudhir. It stars Prem, Diganth, Prajwal Devaraj, Vijay Raghavendra and Kashinath (oh it’s true). The film attempts to explore the lives of four men whose existences take turns that leads them to meet each other and work for a cause which is bigger than themselves.

Chowka is an amalgamation of a lot of films you’ve seen before. You have seen these characters, you know these stories and you recognize the themes being explored. But as Roger Ebert once said, “it’s not what it’s about but how it’s about it”. When this film is viewed with that lens, it succeeds in a few ways. To begin with, the film does not skimp on introducing the characters. There was an easy way out here. The film could have rushed through this segment but chooses to familiarize the audience with the leads and it is all the better for it. The four men who play the leads are trying their best and they do come off with some of their most memorable performances. Prem and Prajwal Devaraj deserve special praise for getting under the skin of their characters and reaching a level higher than they have done before.

The biggest winner of the film for me was the re-introduction of one of the most influential trailblazers of the Kannada film industry, Kashinath. Watching the great man on screen was a consummate joy. It seemed as if he had not missed a beat and watching him led to some of the biggest cheers I’ve heard whilst viewing a film. The other point of praise would be the intelligence shown by the film through some scenes. With a few instances which may remind the audience of Navagraha, the film goes into this territory of being a cerebral procedural and it helps sell the reality of the predicament the heroes find themselves in.

Coming to the flip side, the film’s biggest drawback is its length. The film makes times for a gratuitous cameo and three female characters who might as well not have existed. The sheer size of the film beats the audience into submission instead of taking them on a fun and engaging ride. The choice to use multiple cinematographers and music directors works fairly well. It is a bold choice worth praising, in the cinematography circle, but a few songs turn out as duds which take away a bit of the shine off the apple. The film uses a bit of unconvincing CGI and that always stands out like a sore thumb but this time that sore thumb is trumped by the overuse of the “product placement catchphrase”.  It is ill-conceived and we could have done without it. Vijay Raghavendra’s dialect disappears after the first half and it draws all the attention to itself.

The film takes a hard left at a point and goes for a conclusion it hasn’t earned. The characters never seem to be working for these ideals but the film tries to shoe-horn a novel ending which is supposed to incite a feeling of national fervor amongst the audience. This does not work in the context of the story being presented and is bound to be a jarring experience for most viewers, as it was for me.

I had a wholly decent time watching this film. It’s goods outweigh its bads and it still makes for a moderately worthwhile use of your time. At the risk of overstaying my welcome, I will end my rambling here.

OVERALL SCORE – 3-stars

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