Rating: 3/4 (A colorful set of characters and philosophies clash in Yograj Bhat's funny treatise on life.)
Pancharangi (ಪಂಚರಂಗಿ) is the fourth Kannada movie by Yograj Bhat, the director famous for Mungaru Male. Written by Pawan Kumar and Yograj Bhat, here a bunch of interesting characters and their philosophies clash onscreen leading to interesting situations. The story takes place over 2 days in a gorgeous old thotti mane (ತೊಟ್ಟಿ ಮನೆ) in a village situated right by the Arabian Sea coast. In the thotti mane live two sisters Latha and Ambika, along with their parents and a couple of entertaining servants. To see Latha, a family from Bangalore arrives at this remote village. The potential groom is the caricature of a typical software engineer, shy, boring and lost in his cellphone. The protagonist is his younger brother Bharath, the black sheep of the family and a nihilist to whom the entire world seems full of lifeless objects. He expounds his dark outlook on life by constantly quoting it in the form of pithy verses ending in Lifeu Ishtene (This is all life is). Bharath and Ambika rub off well on each other, though both have opposite outlooks on life. A mysterious sadhu (Anant Nag) they meet on the beach and a surprising turn of events deliver the climactic moments of the movie.
ಒಂದೂರಲ್ಲಿ ಒಬ್ಬ ರಾಜ ಇದ್ದ. ಆ ರಾಜ ಈಗಿಲ್ಲ. ಹಿಂದೆ ಯಾವಾಗ್ಲೋ ನಾನೂ ಇದ್ದೆ. ನನಗೊಂದು ಹೆಸರೂ ಇತ್ತು. ಈಗದೇನು ಇಲ್ಲ. (Anant Nag's entry in the movie.)
It is hard to describe or define what Pancharangi is! This is not surprising since the scriptwriter Pawan Kumar himself has admitted that the script was created in a nontraditional way around the characters and their doctrines, rather than around a story. This leads to a very intellectual and interesting experience, but feels somewhat disconnected. The nihilistic Lifeu Ishtene philosophies spouted by Diganth, Anant Nag and Yograj Bhat (as a background voice) instantly attract and entertain. They seemed to me as a modern avatar of the vachanas by Sarvagna. As we have come to expect from Yograj Bhat, there is a whole suite of interesting characters and they have all acted extremely well. Diganth is cuter than ever, Nidhi Subbaiah (a SJCE Mysore alumnus) looks fabulous and Raju Talikote entertains with his rib-tickling pragmatic chatter in the North Karnataka accent. The cinematography and locales look gorgeous. To see a thotti mane in all its richness and glory is a visual treat. Two historic thotti mane, an unbelievable 600-year old one in Nellikaaru (ನೆಲ್ಲಿಕಾರು) and a century old one in Badilaguttu (ಬಡಿಲಗುತ್ತು) have been used in the movie. The last time I felt this lost in a thotti mane was in the movie Naayi Neralu. The songs in Pancharangi are all earworms. While the Lifeu Ishtene songs written by Yograj Bhat are philosophical, Udisuve Belakina Seereya (Let me drape you in a saree of light) by Jayant Kaikini is poetic. I also loved the choreography of the song Udisuve. Full marks on everything, so what is lacking in Pancharangi? Something seems to be amiss. The movie definitely felt more solid on the second watch, but still. The pace seems too fast, the story feels a bit disconnected, and these feelings never went away. Regardless of this, Pancharangi is a rib-tickling movie of intellectual and entertaining characters and situations.