Saturday, May 18, 2019

Kavaludaari [dir. Hemanth M Rao]

Last night, on a friend's recommendation, I tried the recent Kannada flick Kavaludaari (Crossroads) on Amazon Prime.

In the story, a frustrated traffic cop (Rishi) wants to be a crime-solver and after a road excavation reveals decades old bones, obsessively aims to solve a long-closed case on his own. In his quest he meets with a scoop hungry journalist (Achyut Kumar) and later the cop who did the original investigation, now a disheveled drunk (the legendary Anant Nag). Whether they manage to solve the crime and bring justice forms the rest of the film.

Kavaludaari has a fantastic first half, in which we see Rishi's cop single-mindedly digging into the case. I appreciate that Rishi is shown as a novice detective finding his way with a mixture of amiability and doggedness, than the obnoxious sociopathic know-it-all favored by modern crime shows. Director Hemanth Rao essays a terrific visual showcase of past events as seen through Rishi's perspective, even incorporating them as part of a song that pushes the story forward. Rishi in this role has a very approachable presence and one empathizes with his character's desire to rise above his job. The entry of Anant Nag at a pivotal point adds another color. In his initial appearance as the rundown loner ex-cop Nag is so very convincing with his slovenly appearance, unsteady gait and trembling lips, it is almost disturbing. To the script's credit it doesn't immediately bow down to the bigger star - Nag's senior cop is a strong support to Rishi's investigation but does not supplant him.

So far so amazing. Alas, once the main baddie is revealed, which is a good while before the end, it succumbs to convention with muhahaha type "let me explain my masterful scheme" villainy, eye-rolling masala revenge, casual disregard of previously revealed details and leaps of logic that sully the precise and methodical way the film was built up till that point. There are still interesting visual metaphors and the actors are sincere, but it certainly falls short of the tense mystery-noir thriller it could have been. Still, damn it that first half certainly made it worth the while.

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