Ah patriotism, it’s like the Chemical X (a la Powerpuff Girls) of the Kannada film industry. It’s what lets directors and producers with deep pockets but shallow imaginations put together stale masala ingredients to make a product that will surely break even, if not set the cash registers ringing.
So you have Darshan, the eponymous hero in the Chintan-directed Chakravarthy, wearing a dirty blond hairstyle that the 1990s want back. A common man with a hunter’s skills and instincts, Shankar (Darshan) comes to Bengaluru at a time when the notorious rowdy Maharaja has the whole city under his thumb.
Unable to stand aside and watch the city fall apart, Shankar turns into an underworld don to kill Maharaja (do note the subtle symbolism in naming here), become the new don, and keep the peace. Then, it seems like he loses his way, becoming a member of an international crime ring.
But no, it turns out, he did it all for society and country – infiltrating the gang from the inside before they can hurt India and Indians.
He’s the police, and later Interpol’s secret weapon. In what is now becoming a standard trope in Kannada action films, he’s the one who works outside the law to help the law, beating the evil gangsters at their own game. And his final message is very clear – try to hurt India, and we will reach out across the world and destroy you!
All of this, though, comes in the form of a bloated, yawn-inducing and sometimes tacky action thriller (and I use this term as loosely as can be), that practically puts the audience to sleep.
Indeed, so stuporous was the audience in the hall I watched the film in, that it seemed to take many of them nearly three verses to realise that the National Anthem was being played during the film, and summon up the patriotic fervor to stand up.
With a film that carries the tagline “A rare combination of brain and crime”, you’re not expecting an intricate Hitchcockian drama. But when it spends so many precious minutes outlining a grand plan to kill off an elusive gangster that basically boils down to, “let’s shoot at his car when it slows down at a speedbreaker”, you have to wonder what the director is thinking.
And Chakravarthy doesn’t even get its action basics right. The viewer is already turned off right at the start, when Darshan’s grand entry – jumping a jet ski through a massive explosion at sea – falls flat thanks to a graphically-created explosion that wouldn’t convince anyone. The action choreography doesn’t get any better through the rest of the film, with predictable slow-motion shots of the hero felling villains with a single blow and pitiful gun battles that are more comic than thrilling.
The film also has a romance angle involving Deepa Sannidhi which falls quite flat thanks to a complete lack of chemistry.
There’s a lot of potential to craft an edgy, murky thriller on the blurred lines of good and evil, right and wrong in the seamy underbelly of the city. But all Chakravarthy has are clichés, stock punch dialogues and done-to-death action sequences, all made presentable thanks to Chemical X.