Operation Alamelamma

Operation Alamelamma

I really enjoyed Suni’s Simple Agi Ondh Love Story, which had a refreshingly different approach to romance so I was hoping to see him work similar magic with Operation Alamelamma – and I’m happy to say he does. At heart it’s another love story, but this time mixed in with a kidnapping drama, seasoned with plenty of comedy and perfectly served with a dash of suspense on the side. The characters are great, the situations well thought out and the dialogue very funny, ensuring Operation Alamelamma is an entertaining and thoroughly satisfying watch.

Purmy (Rishi) is an orphan who falls foul of the law when he stops to pick up a designer bag that has been left in the middle of a roundabout in Bangalore. Unbeknownst to Purmy, the bag contains the ransom for rich businessman son who has been kidnapped, and the roundabout is the drop site. As soon as Purmy approaches the money, he is set upon by the police and despite his protestations, he’s arrested and taken to the police station. It seems clear that Purmy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and is guilty only of an obsession with designer and branded goods, however Inspector Ashok (Rajesh Nataranga) is still suspicious, and since Purmy is the only suspect the police have, Ashok decides to keep him in custody.

Ashok is also suspicious of the kidnapped boy’s father, Kennedy who is a crook and is suspected of being involved in a number of shady business deals. Kennedy seems distressed by his son John’s disappearance, but Ashok isn’t convinced and wonders, could it all be a front? As the kidnappers call and arrange a new ransom drop Ashok realises they must have someone on the inside – but is it Kennedy, or Purmy, or some other suspect they haven’t yet identified? As the suspense builds and Ashok is under pressure from his superiors to come up with a suspect, the chances for Purmy to prove his innocence seem to be fading.

During the interrogation, Purmy uses the excuse that he is getting married in a few days to try and garner some sympathy, and perhaps even help get him released.  His romance with Ananya is shown in flash-back in between interviews with Ashok as the police search through Purmy’s social media accounts trying to find a link to Kennedy and the kidnapping.

Ananya is a teacher while Purmy sells vegetables by auction at the local market, but despite this disparity in their social status the two gradually become friends. However, the path to true love doesn’t run smooth and despite enjoying an apparently good relationship with Purmy, Anaya ends up engaged to someone else.  This seems to spell the end for Purmy’s chances, but he inadvertently becomes friends with Ananya’s mother (Aruna Balaraj) which potentially could give him a second opportunity to steal Ananya’s heart. Suni ensures there is suspense in the romance track as well as the crime drama since it’s not clear if Purmy is telling the truth when he talks about his wedding or just fabricating a story to hide his involvement in the kidnapping case. While during the flashback sequences it seems very hit and miss if Purmy will end up with the girl. The two different threads of crime drama and romance work individually to build anticipation, while together they keep the audience guessing what the real story is and just who is behind the kidnapping.

Part of the reason that Operation Alamelamma works so well is the cast, who are all brilliant in their roles. Suni has a good eye for picking a more unusual leading man and Rishi steps up to the challenge of his role well. He geeky and awkward enough to be convincing as the innocent bystander, but as the story goes on he gradually starts to reveal unsuspected depths and this is where he starts to shine. It’s an excellent performance in a quirky and unusual role that does keep the audience guessing throughout. Shradda Srinath has already shown what a good actor she is in U-turn, and she is effortlessly good here as Purmy’s love interest. Ananya has plenty of personality and Shradda ensures she remains a sympathetic character, even when she make some obviously bad decisions. I love the easy camaraderie Ananya has with her mother which compares to the prickly persona she shows to the rest of the world. Aruna Balaraj is superb as Ananya’s mother and the rest of the cast are all excellent, and perfect in their roles.

The other reason for Operation Alamelamma’s success is good writing. The characters are all well developed with detailed personalities and the twists in the storyline all seem to arise naturally as a result of the characters’ actions. The truth behind the kidnapping isn’t apparent until last moment and even then, it’s cleverly revealed. Suni has put together an interesting story and added quirky characters that engage right to the end. The music too is good, with Judah Sandy supplying a couple of excellent songs and effective background score. Operation Alamelamma is another one to add to the growing list of excellent films from Kannada cinema this year and is well worth catching on the big screen if you can. Highly recommended.

 

Simple Agi Ondh Love Story

Simple Agi Ondh Love Story

The story of Simple Agi Ondh Love Story is one familiar from a number of Hollywood romances, but it gets a new treatment here from director Suni. He’s stuck to a minimal cast and limited shooting locations but included riddle-like dialogues and snappy comebacks to add interest to the screenplay. The film describes a romance between Kushal (Rakshit Shetty) and Kushi (Shwetha Srivatsav) with the narrative taking place one wet monsoon day when the two first meet. It’s a slow-paced film which does drag somewhat in the middle, but is redeemed by a good beginning and an excellent ending. Not a film for everyone perhaps, but worth a look as an example of new, independent cinema in Karnataka that seems to be just a little bit quirky.

The film starts with an RJ Rachna (Rachana) telling her audience a story about her brother Kushal. He is off to Kodagu area in Coorg to meet Rachna’s fiancé’s sister Ithihasini. The hope is that a romance might blossom between the two since Rachna feels she cannot go ahead and get married while her brother is still unattached. I cannot imagine that her listeners would have been in any way interested in the story, particularly since she annoyingly starts each sentence with ‘Actually…’, but as a method of introducing the actors it works well. Kushal directs advertising films and is also a keen photographer, so his interest is drawn when he sees a girl out in the monsoon rain taking photographs. Naturally when he turns up at the house to meet Ithihasini, she turns out to be the girl he has seen in the rain, and just to keep the clichés going he immediately decides then and there that he has found the girl for him. However unusually then the two are left to their own devices for most of the rest of the film. Rachna has called Ithihasini to let her know that Kushal will be there, but the rest of the family have gone to visit a temple for the weekend, leaving Ithihasini to entertain Kushal by herself.

There is a lot of fast banter between the two as Ithihasini quizzes Kushal about his reasons for wanting to meet her and Kushal tries to get past Ithihasini’s evasions when asked about herself. The dialogues often seem in the form of brain-teasers, or maybe they appear as strange questions due to the subtitling, but Suni seems to mix old-fashioned similes and sayings with modern speech giving a rather more unusual dialogue. It sometimes makes the interactions between the two difficult to understand and I found I had to pause the film to re-read some of the subtitles to get a clearer sense of what the characters were trying to say.

As a way to get to know each other, the two share their previous love stories, which are shown in the form of flashback episodes. However the same actors play the roles of each other’s previous partners in these flashbacks which backfires to some extent as the film becomes monotone and flat as a result. There is little differentiation between the characters as they are themselves and their appearance as the ‘ex’. Although there is some attempt to make them at least appear different – Jarin for example has long hair (complete with manband) and a beard compared to Kushal’s short hair and shaven chin, the personalities appear identical and the dialogue retains the riddle pattern, adding to the similarity. The love stories themselves are also rather dull, although the dialogue is often quite funny and the few songs do help lift the mood. However, by the end of the flashback sequences Kushal seems a bit of a wimp and Ithihasini appears even more immature and irritating than before.

Ithihasini’s actions seem a little odd and her responses to Kushal’s questions all avoid direct answers so it’s not really a surprise when Kushal’s sister calls to tell him that the girl he has been spending time with is not Ithihasini at all. When confronted the fake Ithihasini comes up with a number of different stories, but Kushal finds her even more intriguing as a result and declares his love for her despite not knowing who she actually is, although he does finally discover her real name is Kushi.

The final part of the film is better, adding suspense with the mystery around Kushi and the reasons for her confusing actions. The end has a surprising twist and makes up for the dreary middle section, particularly as both actors finally begin to react more to each other in a more natural way. There is genuine emotion and the overly complicated dialogue is replaced by more spontaneous sounding exchange. The different approach gives the ending more impact and made me wish there had been more of this honesty and emotion earlier in the film.

For new actors, Rakshit Shetty and Shwetha Srivatsav do a good job with their roles, particularly given that the action focuses solely on just them for most of the film. Shwetha’s Kushi is particularly irritating at times, which I think is the whole point, and does provide a good contrast to Rakshit’s more sensible Kushal. Shwetha does however come into her own into the last scene and also has some great facial expressions throughout the film. Rakshit has a little more to work with earlier in the film and is also excellent in those moments where he has to show more emotion. Although most of the film is shot in the same house with the ever-present monsoon, cinematographer Manohar Joshi captures the different moods of the rain and the subtle changes in lighting well. There is also a good contrast in the romance between Kushi and Jarin which is set on the beach in the summer and is a pleasant change from all the rain.

What I like about Simple Agi Ondh Love Story is that’s an attempt at something a bit different. The decision to use minimal locations and only a few actors may possibly have been driven by budget considerations, but it does keep the story simple and focus attention on the dialogue. A little more editing in the flashback sequences would have helped but overall I enjoyed the romance and liked the characters. Simple Agi Ondh Love Story is an unusual style of film that is definitely worth a watch provided you are a fan of the romance genre and don’t mind a minimalist approach. 3 stars.