I finally watched the movie that’s sent the whole of Karnataka into a tizzy. I’m glad I watched Mungaru Male.
The best things in life are often simple. Mungaru Male’s simplicity is its success secret: when was the last time you saw the Sold Out sign for a Kannada film in an upmarket theatre like PVR for the 10 PM show?
Note: Some Spoilers ahead
I don’t remember the last time I went to a theatre to watch a Kannada film for obvious reasons: a title like Gunna is enough to put you off. I decided to watch Mungaru Male more out of curiosity: there must be something in a movie that’s running to packed houses more than four months since its release.
The storyline though, is straightforward and almost hackneyed. Aimless rich boy, Ganesh, falls in love with cute girl Sanjana Gandhi, pursues her, and finds she’s the daughter of a family friend. He stays at her house, and discovers that her wedding is a week away. He endears himself to her family all the while battling his feelings. The girl reciprocates two days before the wedding date. They decide to elope. Watch what happens next on the screen.
So what made this film a monster hit? In one word: screenplay.
Mungaru Male literally means pre-monsoon rain. From a cultural standpoint, pre-mosoon rain holds a special, unique significance in Karnataka. It is typically identified with the densely-thicketed areas of Malnad, stretching all the way to Coorg. The pre-monsoon rain is usually celebrated in much the same way as Spring is celebrated in Europe. In the Malnad region, the pre-monsoon rain is usually fierce. A couple of such rain spells, and you see the colour returning to the lush greenery there.
Kannada romantic poetry abounds with references to Mungaru Male. It is the season of tenderness, and the season when love sprouts. And this is precisely what Mungaru Male brings to life on screen.
Mungaru Male is one of the really rare movies that has used the rain metaphor from start till end. It sets the mood for the entire film, takes hold of you and never lets you go. Even after you walk out of the cinema hall. Unsurprisingly, the most effective scenes of the film are shot in rain with some great landscape in the background. The best example of this is when a drunk Ganesh pours out his feelings to Sanjana. The rain has thinned down, the sky is a depressed ash, and the large lake in the background is similarly coloured. The scene is intense with superb histrionics by Ganesh. Yogaraj Bhat, who has written the screenplay, brings out several layers in this scene.
For a romance movie, Mungaru Male moves at an amazing pace. Yogaraj Bhatt, also the director, sustains suspense in every scene. He has also written the dialogues, which are pretty breezy and set in a highly casual tone. It takes a special talent to express your hurt in a casual manner: no yelling, hair-pulling, or chest-beating. Ganesh says this with a smile but it stuns you with its intensity:
Nang gottaghoytu ri neev nang sigalla yaakandre nann time kharaab aagide…time ketthodre tale kerkondru taleli gaaya aagi gaaya cancer aagi doctor tale ne tegi beku antaare…antadrall naanu…ee hrudya…heart antaaralla adann kai haakond para para para anta kerkond bittideenri…prema devate ri neevu…tumba novv aagutte…male…male nintre kanneer kaanutte nachke aagutte
Perhaps the most unexpected moment of the film is its climax, one of the realistically best endings I’ve seen in a long time.
Ganesh who graduated from a TV-show anchor to a “hero” walks away with all the acting honours. His timing is one of the highlights of his performance. It is evident that comedy is his forte but he has excelled in emotional scenes as well. The drunk scene, and the scene where he spontaneously lays his head on his mother’s lap are heart rending. Anant Nag as Sanjana’s father is his evergreen self. Another great sequence is when he confesses his terminal illness to Ganesh.
It is moments like these that make Mungaru Male special and memorable.
Music is definitely another highlight of the movie. Of the seven songs, I liked just Anisutide yaako and the title track. However, Aralutiru Jeevada Geleya (the sad version of Anisutide yaako) has superb lyrics although Shreya Ghoshal could’ve rendered it better.
Hakkiyu haadide thanna hesaranu helade
Sampige beeride kampanu yaarigu kelade
Beesuva gaaliya hakkiya haadina nantige hesarina hangilla
Maathige meerida bhaavada selethave sundara
Nalumeyu thumbida manasige baaradu besara
Baala daariyali bere yaadaru chandira baruvanu namma jothe
Kaanuvenu avanalle ninnane
Very simple and profound at the same time. Jayant Kaikini reminds us of the legendary Chi Udayashankar in this song.
Mano Murthy, who gave us the lilting Nooru Janmaku has only outdone himself in Mungaru Male. Full marks to Sonu Nigam for Anisutide especially. He has sung it with the appropriate Bhava (feeling, emotion), which is a tough task for a singer who doesn’t know the language. More so, a song loaded with tender feelings.
Dialogues deserve a second mention here because they’re powerful in their simplicity:
Yeno Devdasa, life alli modalne saari ista pattu ondh mombathi hachidhe, male huydbidtu…
Ee mungaru maleli istondh benki idhe antha gothirlilla devdaasa
Cinematography is just mindblowing. The cameraman’s hard work shows in the scintillating landscapes of Coorg and Malnad although there’s a factual error. Most of the movie is set in Coorg but Sanjana chooses to confess her love to Ganesh standing on the edge of Jog Falls. There’s no explanation how they got there because the journey from Coorg to Jog Falls is considerable. But the lovely camera work more than compensates this factual error.
All right, I’m heavily biased in favour of Mungaru Male. This is by no means a “balanced” review. Nor did I intend it to be. The film has its drawbacks but its positives outweigh the drawbacks by light years. Name just three Kannada films over the past 10 years that use a metaphor. Or any other subtlety. Speaking of which, Yogaraj Bhat excels in adopting an excellent symbolism in the film. In the form of a rabbit. Nicknamed Devdas, Ganesh first discovers the rabbit at roadside. He adopts it, and makes it his accomplice to woo Sanjana. The rabbit symbolizes Ganesh’s quest from start to end. Its death mirrors Ganesh’s fate. Its burial near the tip of the Jog Falls is equally consistent with the shaping of events in the movie, and symbolic, again. The death of Devdas is intensely moving.
Ultimately, Mungaru Male appeals because everybody recognizes in it, something common to their own experiences of falling in/out of love. The way it is told makes the difference: the tenor is casually intimate, like the small bits of routine conversation among friends that metamorphose into fond memories to be recalled long after the conversation is over, and when the friends are no longer physically in touch. The movie has a lingering quality, which makes you want to watch it again, for the experience that it gives you. That partly explains why the movie is running to packed houses even today. A huge chunk is repeat audience. Little wonder that rumour mills have already declared this as the biggest grosser in Kannada cinema history. A whole blog has been dedicated to the movie. Wikipedia also has an entry on the film.
To me however, Mungaru Male will remain as one of the finest pieces of poetry on celluloid.
Crossposted on Desicritics.