Shivaji Surathkal starring Ramesh Arvind is closest to a contemporary Kannada film that has come to adapting a Sherlock Holmes flick.
Off late, Kannada cinema has significantly moved towards the thriller genre. While the industry has been delivering thrillers now and then, the success of Rangitaranga has cast a spell on filmmakers to be in a thriller trance. The result, however, is a factor that has been churning out mediocre half-baked thrillers. Fortunately, for Shivaji Surathkal, it rises above the mediocrity.
State Home Minister Rajiv Rai’s son is mysteriously killed in a resort situated in the village of Ratnagiri. Before notifying the media, the case is handed over to a special officer who is repeatedly called “an officer who solves cases with his imagination” – Shivaiji Surathkal. 48 hours is the time for investigation but we never know why it should be 48 hours.
In the opening credits, the film’s team decided to thank Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and only after watching the film, you will realize the extent of the influence the two have had on the plot.
The writing is crisp and convincing in most parts
Over the runtime of 2 hours and 4 minutes, Shivaiji Surathkal excels in comparison to its contemporaries by keeping the plot tight and sticking to the sensibility throughout. For a story that is set in one location, the writing is crisp and convincing in most parts. The treatment style chosen by the debutant director Akash Vasishta is different, refreshing at times and also equally problematic.
The team has not shied away from acknowledging the source of the inspiration – Sherlock Holmes. The character played by Ramesh Arvind is pretty much the Sherlock Holmes of Benedict Cumberbatch placed in Karnataka. Speaking at a speed that would be difficult to dub later, sharp in identifying clues, short-tempered, charming and has a legend of his own. We also get a Watson like a sidekick.
Ramesh Arvind Shines
Ramesh Arvind, with his charm, holds the film and the audience together and guides them through the story. The chemistry between Shivaji and his sidekick isn’t great but is also something I didn’t mind. What I did mind was the constant breaking of the fourth wall. It is jarring, out of the place and just not done well.
Editing is impressive but not eye-pleasing
Despite a strong plot and execution, there are also a few misses. Levista’s brand placement is quite distracting. The editing during the switching of the past and the present is impressive but overall, it is not eye-pleasing.
The problems multiply towards the end. The flashback, in the end, has been a trope to invoke sympathy but it has been done to death. The obsession of connecting every dot in the story should be stopped. It is becoming tiring and predictable. There is also a problematic interpretation of law towards the end.
A major cause of concern in the industry should be the contemporary thrillers mimicking badly made thrillers. The genre is not understood well. The interpretations of inspiration are lost in translation. Filmmakers should understand the genre, its classic tropes and the way they can incorporate it in their story.
The team of Shivaji Surathkal has pushed the envelope in the right direction. Barring a few things, it excels in departments where most other films fail.