Cast: Sudeep, Suniel Shetty, Aakanksha Singh, Sushant Singh, Kabir Duhan Singh, Appanna
Director: S Krishna
Making a larger-than-life film requires two important things: vision and an antagonist powerful enough to make your hero look good when he finally vanquishes him. Without these, the best of actors and technicians can’t really help a film.
Pailwaan begins well enough, and you see the intent in some scenes. But, the super-flabby first half (Editor: Ruben) leaves you wondering as to what is happening. Is this a story of an orphaned boy who’s adopted by the wrestling guru Sarkar (Suniel Shetty is at his dignified best in his Kannada debut) and how he fulfils his destiny or a rich girl-poor boy love story?
Somewhere in between the nearly-three-hour-long film, Krishna (Sudeep, arresting in the wrestling and boxing scenes and the second half) and Rukmini (an effective Aakanksha Singh) meet with an accident and their jeep rolls off into what looks like a forest. There’s no panic, nothing. She flings a stone, breaks a pot tied to a palm tree, and supposedly gets high on toddy. He manages to get a tender coconut from somewhere. She manages to disturb a beehive. They run and then they fall into a pit that looks all freshly-dug. And, get lovey-dovey. Why Why, you wonder!
Especially since he’s on his way to wrestle at an important event where the national selectors are present. And, that’s all his guru wants, for Krishna to win the Nationals. And he predictably wins it, with much cheering by his friend (Appanna, present only to bring on some laughs) and Aakansha.
The script takes many a detour before getting back to its strong point — the wrestling ground and the boxing ring — in the reasonably-spiffy second half.
The film has two highly ineffective antagonists. One of them is Sushant Singh as Raja Rana Pratap Varma of Ranasthalipura, the kind of megalomaniac who utters lines that choke you: “If there’s a wedding, I’m the groom. If there’s a death, I’m the corpse.” Err. Okay. He also, at one stage, gets two people to hold a television set in the middle of nowhere, and watches the replay of his wrestling bout with Krishna.
Then, there’s Tony (Kabir Duhan Singh) the boxer who defies every rule in the book. He growls, and then some more. He’s that kind of a one-note character.
By now, you know Krishna is the kind of person who values his word over everything else. It helps he’s been raised by a man who tells him that “A man who fights is a rowdy. But, one who fights for a strong reason is a warrior.” And when the same man asks him to give up wrestling and go away from his line of vision, Krishna obeys.
The portions of Krishna as a family man really work. He’s a daily-wage labourer, carrying sacks and working with a car mechanic, but he smiles, and his love story with Rukmini, whom he now calls Rukkamma, picks up pace after their wedding. He also cooks, and mercifully, that’s not used to bring on the laughs. That sensitivity, however, goes missing when a local henchman takes potshots at Sarkar because he does not have children. Krishna is also a deeply affectionate father, and it is this trait that sets him on the path to earn his mentor’s love once again. This time, his mentor’s words ring true: “I taught you how to fight, you have now learnt why to fight”.
Later, when you realise why Krishna wants to enter the boxing ring, it ties neatly with why Krishna first fought as a child. His heart beats for people, and children, we get it. But, the next couple of scenes spread the idea a little too thin.
You know he’ll somehow win the bout with Tony, but there’s really no edge-of-the-seat action. It… happens. You also know he will take part in the wrestling Nationals…and, that also happens. And, that’s a crying shame for a film that rides on the action blocks.
Sudeep is the kind of actor who can speak with his eyes, and who can really lend dignity to a role. Evidently, director Krishna chose to never tap that side of the actor in this film.
But, the actor, lithe in his new avatar, valiantly tries to rescue a script riddled with stereotypes. In the action scenes and some dance sequences, the work Sudeep put in for the film shows.
Music by Arjun Janya is over the top at times, but three songs strike a chord — ‘Dorasani’, ‘Kannumaniye’ and ‘Dhuruvataare’. The camera (cinematography by Karunakara) lingers lovingly on the chiselled bodies of the wrestlers and boxers, and takes in the sweeping landscape. The art direction (Sivakumar) is in your face, with strategically-placed earthen urns ready to crumble the minute Krishna sends someone flying.
Before we leave, here’s another dialogue to crack you up: “Love is like getting a six-pack, difficult to achieve. Friendship is like a paunch. It happens easily, and refuses to go.”