Tarka (trans=Logic) launched one of the most amazing directors in Kannada cinema. Although it didn’t exactly set the box office ablaze, it signalled that Sunil Kumar Desai had arrived with his maiden directorial venture. A pity that Desai retired a couple of years ago.
Tarka is a suspense-thriller, murder-mystery and pscyhological-horror tale all rolled into one. Its highlight is its taut, and fresh screenplay as well as the gripping tale. It is one of those rare songless movies. I’ve always despised the presence of songs in a movie that’s supposed to keep you on the proverbial edge of the seat.
Tarka opens with Shankar Nag escaping from cops and taking shelter in Vanita Vasu’s (female lead) house. This sets the tone for the entire movie that moves in and out of several flashbacks to tell its tale. Vanita Vasu’s husband, played by Devaraj, suffers from extreme schizophrenia. He suspects his wife’s fidelity and is unable to make love to her. He steadily progresses to torture her in truly gruesome ways. And then he’s murdered. A flashback also tells us that he had gangraped Shankar Nag’s girlfriend. I hate giving spoilers, so watch the movie for the suspense.
The film is especially noteworthy for Devaraj’s performance. His pockmarked face, highlighted by several close-up shots highlight his villainy, is backed equally by stellar acting skills. The torture scenes in the film are pretty graphic even by today’s standards–the movie was released in 1987–and it takes some effort not to squirm while watching those scenes. Shankar Nag displays his usual prowess though not in the same class as Ondanondu Kaladalli or Accident. In retrospect, he seems to have deliberately underplayed his role as an avenging lover, a symphathetic listener of Vanita Vasu’s travails, and a man on run. Tarka also broke lot of rules in a generally-conservative Kannada film industry, which had grown up on a staple diet of Rajkumar movies by showing plenty of skin. Desai didn’t shy away from showing that lovemaking is generally done in the nude. This at once earned him notoriety among the moral cops and womens’ organizations, who instantly branded his movies as “cheap” and “vulgar.” After you finish watching the movie, you’ll recall anything but the “sex” scenes. You find what you look for.
Watch it for its original screenplay, direction, plot, and suspense. You won’t be disappointed.