LIFF SPECIAL REVIEW: Ondu Motteya Kathe (“Egghead”)

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Kannada director Pawan Kamar (Lucia, U-Turn) brings his considerable talents to act as producer and promoter for Ondu Motteya Kathe (“Egghead”), the first feature film from fellow Kannada filmmaker (as well as writer and actor) Raj B. Shetty. Janardhan (Shetty)– the “Egghead” of the film’s title – is a balding 28-year-old Kannada language lecturer and devotee of Kannada superstar Rajkumar, and is in search of a wife. The marriage broker his parents hire struggles to find a suitable bride (they all reject him because, well, he’s a Kannada lecturer, and he’s bald). Janardhan sets his sights on a pretty economics teacher, and with the help of co-worker Srinivas (Prakash Tuminadu) — who is seen to have an exemplary relationship with his wife of four years — he sets out to woo her. Things seem to be progressing well, but her proclamations that her family raised her to look beyond the exterior and focus on the person’s heart and personality (a theme that forms the core of Shetty’s film) go for a toss when a handsome English teacher joins the staff.

Janardhan turns to asceticism in order to overcome his desire for a pretty bride, but quickly sets that aside when another attractive young woman shows an interest in him. She’s not what she seems, however, but before Janardhan discovers what she’s really interested in, he professes his love for her to his parents, insisting she’s the only one he will marry. When that doesn’t work out, he reconnects with a friend, Sarala (Shailashree) via social media. They set up a meeting, and each of them is unhappy to discover that neither of them lives up to their expectations: Sarala discovers that Janardhan is bald; Janardhan finds Sarala’s generous forms not to his liking. However, Janardhan’s parents assume that Sarala is the girl that Janardhan has insisted upon marrying, and in a mix-up, they set out to arrange things between the couple. There is some irony in the fact that Sarala, believing that Janardhan was talking about her when he told his parents how beautiful the girl he was interested in was, decides she can look beyond his balding head if he can accept her weight; but all Janardhan – who has suffered from other people’s rejections of his looks – can think of is to find any way he can to stop the marriage.

At times, I felt the film could have benefited from some tighter editing and a little crisper pacing, but that seems like minor quibbling in the face of a debut film that benefits from terrific writing and directing. Shetty’s strengths both as an actor and as a writer lie in comedy, and when the film takes an emotional turn it threatens to become maudlin. It’s true that Janardhan is in need of a life lesson, but just at this point, Janardhan verges on the truly unlikeable, rather than seeming merely misguided and thoughtless. But Shetty manages to rein it all in at the end, and ultimately Ondu Motteya Kathe – laced with song snippets and dialogues from Rajkumar films to perfectly punctuate the proceedings — shows us that Shetty has interesting ideas and thoughtful stories to share, and much potential as a writer and director to be explored.

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