Nithin Krishnamurthy's high-brow dark comedy runs out of ideas after a point and even begins to stutter a little, but its biggest merit is that it never lets you guess or predict its next move.
When the much-loathed warden of Thunga Boys Hostel drops dead one night with a suicide note by his side, all hell breaks loose. A select few boys who find themselves included in the note must now find a way to get rid of the dead man and do it so stealthily that the rest of the bustling hostel remains clueless about this. Could this motley crew combine all the bizarre individual ideas to do the deed and rid the hostel of the warden?
"It all happened one night" is an expression that's most often used loosely to describe something unprecedented, but in the case of the Hudugaru at the Thunga Boys Hostel, the night ends up withholding more surprises than one could ever stomach. In a manner, the night turns out to be a fable that could be recounted generations later, but it perhaps helps that buried among the chaos is a camera that not only documents it all but also legitimizes the tall claims the Boys are likely to make in the future to gain some social clout.
So, in essence, Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare unfolds like a true meta-movie that is both self-reflective and self-aware. It rides on the thin line dividing careful choreography and absolute abandon, making the experience feel immersive and first-hand-like for the viewer. It also helps that there's "something" happening at all times with respect to the plot and much like any bystander in the situation, you, the viewer, will find yourself witnessing the drama with hints of perplexion, and also unawareness. Sure, this high-brow dark comedy runs out of ideas after a point and begins to stutter like a vintage moped, but its biggest strength is that it never lets you guess or predict its next move. And very few films are capable of doing that.
What works more than anything else in the favour of the film is its enterprising premise. A lacklustre engineering student wants to make a short film but none of his friends believe his idea has any weight to it. "Your film has no story or any structure," asserts one of them but the filmmaker's grit (and naivete) is such that he is willing to try out anything whacky to realize that passion. Of course, as already mentioned, he has got a friend in the midst who has his camera turned on at all points and should something dramatic occur inadvertently, this face-less camera guy is there to trap it.
But the magic lies in the fact that this premise, so to speak, is only the tip of the iceberg. The same inadvertence, before we know it, escalates into a "what the f**k" sort of a situation and soon enough, a group of boys ends up navigating a whole lotta mess that they couldn't dare even imagine. Nithin Krishnamurthy, the writer-director of the film, and cinematographer Arvind Kashyap (the face-less camera guy) run riot in perfect synchronization in these portions and dial-up the intensity ever-so-tactfully that you just don't see a major surprise around the corner. It's best described as a 'twist', in cinema-speak, but the ability to 'choreograph' (a true operative word) the narrative in a way that the audience is thrown-off almost entirely is to be marvelled at.
Nithin Krishnamurthy also uses these crucial 'setup' portions as a disclaimer for his audience members. It is almost as though he is using the "no story or structure" statement in a self-deprecatory manner so as to tell the viewer that much like the hostel boys' perception of the short film, you mustn't regard OUR film all that seriously either. In short, Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare is intentionally rendered as a self-aware film so that it can function on its own set of rules and syntax, leaving the conventions aside to go up in smoke.
But the same approach also threatens to derail the film a little and we see first signs of that happening a little after the excellent interval block. The platform is raised perfectly well at this point for some more subversive and farcical elements to show up but despite trying its might, the film runs out of ideas or directions to head towards. Instead, it starts to feel like a mere "vibe" movie that is unable to handle the promise that it carried initially and the plot stops being as exciting and edge-of-the-seat(ish) as it was before.
One reason, if we could dig deeper, for the wobble could be the fact that Nithin Krishnamurthy opts to increase the scope of his story by including a couple of other plots on the side. This also means that the set purview of the film as a POV film set on a hostel campus is adjusted slightly and I am not completely sure if that helped in making this better.
The cameos, particularly of Rishab Shetty, Pawan Kumar and Shine Shetty, work quite well and fit into the ethos of the film without any trouble. Diganth Manchale, too, is good whereas the frequent appearances made by Ramya seem a little out of place.
That said, the huge ensemble cast of the film, which includes as many as 500 artists, supports the cause tremendously well and never lets the shortcomings of the plot seem too heavy on us. The central players, especially, are superb and quite apparently in sync with the rhythm and the tone of the film. Ajaneesh B. Loknath, much like Kashyap's hand-held camera work, feels like a part of the proceedings.
Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare has been one of the most talked-about Kannada films of recent times and that is because it boasts a huge team of youngsters who have dared to try something new. And the film, as it turns out, is quite courageous in the way it subverts expectations and jumps from one style of filmmaking to another as it pleases. Largely, the experiments work and work really well but (as pointed out already) the narrative meanders and it feels as though there are a few too many ideas crammed into it.
That said, no film is perfect and Hostel Hudugaru Bekagiddare brims with inventiveness that we do not get to see often around us. It's a consummate theatrical experience should you choose to watch it with your own 'crew' because there's much to relate to and celebrate in the film.