5 lessons Bollywood can learn from ‘Paramathma’

PRASHANT KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: As a film goer seriously allergic to the hype that accompanies Bollywood tripe, I approached the latest Kannada release Paramathma with plenty of trepidation.

For, the Puneet Rajkumar-starrer directed by Yograj Bhat seemed to suffer from an overdose of promotion that sends alert antennas up.

For more than a month before the movie’s release last Friday, the director, the “power star”, the music composer (V. Harikrishna) and the actresses (Deepa Sannidhi and Aindrita Ray) were happily plugging away on channel after TV channel, no questions asked.

On the basis of a few visuals made available to them, the news channels dropped all sense of disbelief and pumped up the film as if Bhat had made a modern-day version of Citizen Kane or The Godfather.

There were specials ad nauseam on “The making of Paramathma“. Bhat and Puneet spent one whole half-hour urging a TV film reporter (Ghoshal of TV9) to get married, and then spent another episode pulling Deepa’s legs (on Suvarna News).

Then to top it all, in a Bunty aur Babli moment, Bhat read the 9 pm news to “promote” the film.

It’s the kind of over-promotion that can cause nausea among the faint-hearted. And it’s the kind of over-promotion that will always have a mismatch in the expectation to delivery ratio (especially if you haven’t seen either Yograj Bhat’s or Puneet Rajkumar’s work before, as I hadn’t).

But, guess what, Paramathma turned to be mighty enjoyable and total paisa-vasool. It was the kind of mainstream Kannada film that should make Kannadigas feel proud especially given the kind of reasons Sandalwood has been making news lately.

1) The big reason Paramathma worked for me was that it was clean, which is really saying something these days. The story, the language, the comedy, the sets, the costumes, almost everything bears a stamp of on decency of the vanishing kind, almost bringing a tear to sore Kannada eyes.

2) Paramathma isn’t vulgar like most modern films feel they are entitled to be to get the cash registers ringing. None of those curvy mid-riffs on display. No raunchy item numbers with clothes held up by hope. No two-bit actresses thrusting their pelvis at you. And no crass, double-meaning dialogues in the comedy scenes that the likes of Rangayana Raghu are notorious for.

3) For a movie coming in the era of Singham and Force and Bodyguard, the surprising thing about Paramathma is the manner in which it eschews violence of the sort that south Indian cinema is now synonymous for. No machchu, no laangu. No vehicles rising up in thin air. No thundering dialogues uttered by the glowering star. And no torsos flying around.

4) Arguably, Kannada cinema now churns out the best music in India and Paramathma shows why. Jayant Kaikini‘s word wizardry (see YouTube video, above) stands out. But it is the “Kannada Rap” from Bhat and Harikrishna in two hit songs (Collegeu gate alli and Kathlalli karadige) that shows how well the American music form has been brilliantly incorporated to mirror local angst.

5) And, above all, Paramathma stands out for me because although it is an urban, urbane film of the SMS-internet era, it beautifully manages to give a feel of the rural and the rustic without banking on the feudal, retrograde and melodramatic elements that have become the hallmarks of Indian cinema trying to give the desi feel.

It isn’t as if Yograj Bhat and Puneet Rajkumar have come up with Casablanca or Ran. Far from it. Paramathma has its share of weaknesses, like over-romanticising academic failure; like needlessly employing Bollywood singers; like a rather wooden Kannadiga heroine (Deepa Sannidhi) who has only two expressions, a smile or a scowl.

Still, for a mainstream Kannada film to rise above abysmally low Sandalwood and Bollywood benchmarks and come up trumps (despite a trafic ending) is no small achievement. And M/s Bhat, Puneet, Harikrishna & Co can go to bed satisfied that even on a working day, the morning and matinee shows in the malls are running houseful.

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