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Gandhada Gudi review: If James was an emotion, Puneeth Rajkumar’s dream project is an experience of a lifetime

The late actor’s swansong will leave you teary-eyed

Gandhada Gudi review: If James was an emotion, Puneeth Rajkumar’s dream project is an experience of a lifetime
Puneeth Rajkumar in a still from Gandhada Gudi

Last Updated: 06.41 AM, Oct 28, 2022


Story: Puneeth Rajkumar was known to be an avid travel and adventure buff. He’d travelled the world, but was also looking forward to explore Karnataka’s rich bio-diversity, for which he teamed up with award-winning wildlife filmmaker Amoghavarsha. Together, they took off on a journey across the length and breadth of the state, the end result of which is a visual spectacle of hidden gems.


Review: When the opening sequence of Gandhada Gudi began last evening, the whistles and hoots and calls of ‘Power Star Puneeth Rajkumar’ and ‘Appu’ literally drowned out the first few moments of the late actor’s dream project. There was happiness all around at being able to see late Power Star Puneeth Rajkumar one last time on the big screen. Heartening as this outpouring of love was, what was irritating was that pretty much everyone in the hall had whipped out their cell phones and was recording poignant moments from the docu-drama. It is an understandable emotion, that they’d want to preserve it for posterity. But posting these short videos on social media to be a part of the #GandhadaGudiFever on premiere night, is nothing short of disservice to the man who went on an incredible journey to present us a close look at the true beauty of Karnataka. That’s my two cents on this mini piracy.

Let’s now come to the main agenda – Gandhada Gudi. When Puneeth’s James came out earlier this year, it was described as an emotion; it was, after all, his last commercial film as a leading man. Gandhada Gudi is on a different level altogether. It is an experience that will, no doubt, warm the cockles of your heart, but also, leave a massive lump in your throat, as you watch, in rapt attention, Puneeth address you during his time out in the wild.

Puneeth in a still from Gandhada Gudi
Puneeth in a still from Gandhada Gudi

Gandhada Gudi is not director Amoghavarsha’s version of Into the Wild with Bear Grylls. It’s a journey of discovery and learning – more for Puneeth than Amogha. We are introduced to the different types of forests in the state and the wildlife that each eco-system sustains. There are valuable life lessons about preserving nature, but it is never preachy and cleverly intertwined with humour, like, in the case of the relocation of a massive King Cobra from a residential area into the forest. You can literally see that Puneeth’s heart is in his mouth during those moments when the snake was being caught. Turns out, that he’s not very fond of scaly reptiles, even though he reckoned that the few close encounters with snakes, while out in the forest with Amogh, made him a tad less scared.

Puneeth was always game to go to different places, even if it meant hours of trekking through rough terrain, and he did it all with his trademark smile. But he was also wary of unfamiliar sounds and wonders aloud if he’d be alright at the end of the day. It’s moments like these that catch you offguard – you want to smile at his innocence and genuine concern and get teary-eyed because he’s not around anymore.

Amoghavarsha and Puneeth in the docu-drama
Amoghavarsha and Puneeth in the docu-drama

Gandhada Gudi’s biggest strength, of course, is Puneeth. He is in pretty much every frame, whether it is on the actual adventure, or a flashback sequence from his earlier films with his father, the late matinee idol, Dr Rajkumar. And yet, never ever does it become overbearing that there is so much of the actor in this film, because he successfully takes us along on this journey to breath-taking natural beauties. It is also clear that Amoghavarsha is quite the fan-boy and that works to the film’s advantage. One can’t help but feel a tad jealous at the opportunity Amogha got in spending so much time with Puneeth. It must have been quite a task keeping the film to just over an hour and a half. Here’s hoping that Amogha will release a much-longer director’s cut at some point.

The technical team behind Gandhada Gudi, especially music composer Ajaneesh Loknath and cinematographer Prateek Shetty deserve a special mention. The music evokes just the right amount of emotion, while Prateek’s visuals are measured and not forced. Despite the cuts to what appear to be carefully chosen sequences of the wildlife, Gandhada Gudi still feels like an intimate account of two friends on a trek and not the well-planned and executed production that it actually is.

I walked out of the theatre with a heavy heart. I loved Gandhada Gudi; everyone associated with it deserves a big pat on the back. But then, this is the end of the road. There will be no more Puneeth Rajkumar releases, and the team of Gandhada Gudi can rest assured that his last outing will be much loved.

Verdict: Gandhada Gudi is the greatest gift that Puneeth Rajkumar could have given his fans. It more than fulfils its purpose of giving them a a good time with the man they adore, while also driving home the intention behind the film – conservation. This is must-watch not only if you are a Puneeth Rajkumar fan and one that is best experienced on the big screen. My ears are still ringing from all the whistling that erupted every few minutes, but hey, no complaints. It was worth it!

PS: I may be nit-picking, but the only grouse I had was that Gandhada Gudi felt a tad too clinical. Days spent in the forest with no basic amenities and not even a mosquito bite?


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