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November 19, 1998


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A touch of today

M D Riti

A still from Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi. Click for bigger pic!
Whodunnit, saar?" asks the rather childishly designed web page of the first Kannada movie to have its own website. "Dammit, what's the plot, yaar," asks another.

Director T B Srinivas agrees the web page does look a little silly, but explains that he is trying to reach a target audience of Kannada-speaking teenagers in Bangalore who visit cyber cafés.

"Both producer Sanjay and I felt there were no Kannada films being made for young people," he says. "Nobody has tried to capture the image and essence of the city -- an entertaining, jolly and glamorous place. I thought the Internet was the most appropriate publicity medium for an electronics city like ours. The Kannada film industry is simply not catering to the young Kannadiga, so our teenagers see only Hindi and other language films."

Shanthi! Shanthi! Shanthi! -- for that is the name of the film -- will be released in Karnataka tomorrow, but it already is making news for its series of firsts.

It is the first Kannada film with six-track DTS sound. Srinivas makes his directorial debut with this film, after working as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam.

Former state cricketer Sanjay Desai, who is a distributor and theatre-owner, is also making his first foray into production with this venture, along with his businessman brother Ashit.

This will be the first Kannada film for cinematographer P C Sreeram, best known for his camerawork in Mani Ratnam movies like Nayagan and Thiruda Thiruda.

Then, there is composer Sandeep Chowta, who hit the national limelight with his score for Satya, and who is returning to his home turf with his first Kannada film.

T B Srinivas. Click for bigger pic!
Finally, there is actor Abbas, a Bangalorean, making his debut on the Kannada screen. Opposite him is Bombay model Avni, who is being introduced in this movie.

Hindi television actor Madhavan makes his entry into Kannada films with this movie. Of the established, there is the leading lady, Prema, currently one of the top heroines in Karnataka, and Prakash Rai, cast as Ganga Prasad, a take-off on Laloo Prasad Yadav.

But unlike other films for the young that are speckled with songs at every twist and turn, there are just four of them here, all carrying the unmistakable Chowta stamp.

The title track, Shanthi, shanthi, shanthi is a rock number. Then, there is that bow to reggae, Takka Takka Takkadimi and a lovers duet, Elalay, but which has a distinctly western tinge.

The musicians are not the usual playback orchestra, but Chowta's group, consisting of guitarists Keith Peters, Allwyn Fernandes, Jim Sathya and singers Rajesh Krishnan and Sowmya.

"I had a lot of fun creating this music, and that has filtered into the songs," says Chowta, playing snatches of it on his hi-tech music system in his bare apartment in Domlur, Bangalore.

Chowta and Srinivas recorded the theme music, which has a strong jazzy flavour, even before shooting began, and played the music to the artistes on location so that they could capture the mood.

Instead of the usual foreign locales, dozens of dancers and spectacular sets, the film's huge budget has been spent on technical excellence. The film has been shot entirely in Bangalore, in typically middle-class localities. And it took a year to complete.

A still from Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi. Click for bigger pic!
The plot is simple enough. A rich but stingy industrialist, Anantha Murthy, played by Bollywood comedian Satish Shah, has two children, Siddharth (Madhavan), a student who wants to be a rock guitarist, and Shanthi (Avni), a clothes designer who aspires to be a model. Then there is Raju (Abbas) from the slums whose laidback attitude gets him fired from his umpteenth job.

The story takes off when Raju happens upon Murthy's house and takes Shanthi and Siddharth out for a ride in their authoritarian father's vintage car.

Suzy (Prema) joins this menage and the foursome find themselves caught up in an odd set of adventures, finally getting kidnapped after a silly college rock show and fashion extravaganza. The rest of the plot deals with how they find their way out of this mess.

"The pace is not fast or frantic, just pleasant and enjoyable," says Srinivas. "The cultural chutney of Bangalore flavours the film in many little ways. You can hear snatches of Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, even German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and gibberish! The usual Kannada film completely ignores this cosmopolitan character of Bangalore, and you are riddled with weeping women, marital troubles and missing thaalis ( mangalsutras.)

He has written the story, inspired by two incidents -- the kidnapping of a rich businessman by young thugs from Uttar Pradesh who were attracted by Bangalore's reputation as a fast-growing city with rich men and relaxed cops, and the case of four city girls running away for a week with a man who promised to help them fulfil their ambitions.

"I thought these incidents were symptomatic of the rapid pace at which Bangalore is growing, and the sudden influx of money and immigrant population, both of which have led to abrupt changes in lifestyle and attitudes," says Srinivas.

The result of all that is mainstream entertainment film, meant to give viewers a small glimpse into the Bangalore of today.

EXTERNAL LINK: (Page will open in a new browser window)
The Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi site

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