Shuddhi is a 2017 Kannada revenge thriller written and directed Adarsh H. Eshwarappa and stars Niveditha, Lauren Spartano, and Amrutha Karagada. The film follows three women as they battle social injustices in their own specific ways. Saying much else might ruin the plot of the film, which I want to people to experience for themselves, as it does have some good moments on offer.
Before I go any further, I would like to drop a PSA of my own. Abusing women or men, sexual or otherwise, is a heinous act and should be treated as such. Even though the psychological causes for these acts run deep into our societies, it does not make it okay.
Now, Shuddhi is my second style vs. substance debate in the past two weeks of filmgoing. On the contrary to Ghost In The Shell, Shuddhi has a primary moral to get across to the audience but achieves it in a method devoid of much elegance. This is not to say the morals are not valid or the situations presented in the film deserve a polished look, but some basic smoothening might have made for a better product. Scenes linger a second too long, lines come out a fraction of a second too late, the acting is noticeably wooden and the characterizations are quite one-note. All these minute errors add up over the full 1 hour 50 minute running time and the effect they had on me a viewer compounded. The distinct lack of a color palette and the jarring score (at a couple of moments) play spoilt sport with the film’s overall cause. There are some scenes of dripping with dread but I would owe that to the content of those scenes more than anything else.
The film does go out of its way to dole out some novel messages it wants the audience to take home. But these messages are dropped in the most ham-handed ways possible. I do concede that the audience at large are not going to get what the film is going for until it’s spoonfed to them because of the nature of the subject matter, however, I tend to believe that there is a method where the psychology of female abuse could have been looked into with a defter touch.
We, as a people, know that this issue runs deep into our collective psyche and these are things we avoid talking about in public because we want to stay a part of one side of the argument or the other. Nuanced dialogue might lead our respective groups to (sometimes) believe that we may not support the cause wholeheartedly. These are extremely complex psychological and societal issues which need dialogue that sounds a wee bit different than the usual “All men are the same” or “Women who dress a certain way are asking for it”. The film “Pink” achieved this to a certain degree, a few Malayalam films from back in the day achieved this with flying colors and Shuddhi tries but falls a tad short. Shuddi is a work of fiction where exploration is encouraged. A few additional shades added to the characters (good or bad) presented to us might have made this film a more engaging experience.
To wrap this up, I’d rate this film as a necessary public service announcement with flaws. It could have been done way better than it was but it is a first-time director’s low-budget project so growing pains are to be expected. I could not help but feel that this film on a whole could have worked better as one of those many street-plays the film has during its runtime. An easy to understand story which could have worked better in a shorter format. I will keep my eye out for this team’s next effort while being optimistically underwhelmed by this one.
P.S. – Whoever cut this film’s trailer did a pretty poor job at veiling its plot. I know that a whole host of people liked it an I’m in the minority here, but I for one went into the cinema hall knowing the entire plot well in advance because the film’s promotional material told it to me.