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Rathnan Prapancha, Kannada Cinema’s Ode To Motherhood

Rathnan Prapancha(Amazon Prime Video)

Starring Dhananjay, Umashree, Reba Monica John

Directed by Rohith Padaki

Rating: ***

The archetypal Cine Ma, the oft-abused mother figure gets a startling makeover in this warm, intimate, well meaning but rambling meandering tale of a harried but unmarried son Rathnakar(Dhananjay) who first finds his  domineering mother(a delightfully over-the-top Umashree) a big turn-off, only to discover after 2 and a half hours(yes, that’s how long it takes to journey from annoyance to obeisance) that there is no place on earth as peaceful as the mother’s lap.

 Rathnakar’s  journey into self-realization is not without interest. There are some passages in this jalopy travelogue that are actually quite brilliant. The initial scenes of Rathankar being completely smothered by  Saroja(he calls his mother by her first name and it’s cute) and her bullying attentions, are funny in a very disturbing kind of way.

This is not the normal level of motherly affection, and we soon get to know what the problem here is. Rathnakar  is informed by a well-meaning journalist Mayuri(Reba Monica John) that he is an adopted child. Mayuri who has problems of her own including a trying-to-be-cool fiancé and a transgender mother(what was the need for so many issues to crowd the screenplay?) takes off with Rathnakar to seek out his real mother and long-lost siblings, a sister and a kid brother. The latter has grown into a loutish but goodhearted goon lording over village of buffoons. More of that later.

But first Kashmir, where Rathnakar meets his angelic sister and jovial brother-in-law who insists that the song Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera is from Kashmir Ki Kali. A little more research would have done the Kashmiri episode a wealth of good. Instead we have the characters speaking Hindi and Urdu in thick South Indian accents. The sister is found while much of the film’s initial momentum is lost.

By the time Rathnakar and Mayuri reach Gokarna, the plot has reached a point of no return. Actor Pramod Panju as the feudal goon with a heart of gold is entertaining but dangerously incorrect in his behavior towards others specially women. He really doesn’t belong in this film. That entire episode in Gokarna is an all-round misadventure.

Things could have gone downhill for Rathnan Prapancha as it sinks deeper and deeper into its own concept of  social ties and family obligations. But the film has its heart in the right place, and never minds if it tends to derail more often than once.

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