Jayathirtha Jayanna puts together a complex and equally vibrant world but is found a tad distracted because of having to deal with so much material. In turn, he delivers an unremarkable film.
Young Kaiva must overcome extreme odds to ensure his love for Salma prevails. Can he muster the strength and courage to battle these evil forces? Or will he be found all alone in this exceptional task?
Jayathirtha Jayanna has proven over the years that his penchant for storytelling encompasses not just unique ideas but also varied kinds of genres. With 'Kaiva', his latest release, he attempts a new form of cinematic treatment that includes a slightly larger-than-life and melodramatic setting, wherein heroes and villains are clearly demarcated.
There's a plenitude of action, violence, slow-mo cinematography and all the facets of a brutal "mass" film but retaining some of his essence, there's also a love story at the heart. It also helps that 'Kaiva' transports us back in time to a very specific and "vibrant" period of Bengaluru's history when the city's underworld was at its notorious best. Jayathirtha throws in a bit of culture, too, to make things interesting and when all of it is put together, it evokes an intriguing film in us. Well, at least in theory or on paper. In reality, 'Kaiva' falls short of its promise by a significant margin and that's because the filmmaker comes across as unsure and distracted here.
One senses that Jayathirtha is a tad overwhelmed because he has to deal with so much in just one film. The film starts off with an animated 'puppet' show or Togalu Gombeyaata that guides us through the history of the Karaga festival, one of Bengaluru's enduring rituals celebrated in the heart of the city. Cut to the year 1983 and the same heart, the neighbourhood of Thigalarapete, is now home not just to devotion but also crime. A voiceover handholds us into this underbelly and throws up a plethora of names like Pakali, Thambu, 'Matka' Kaleem, Devraj and a few more, while simultaneously pointing out the chosen crimes of each of these esteemed people. In the same vein, we also meet the protagonists Kaiva (Dhanveerah) and Salma (Megha Shetty) who must wade through this treacherous world to help their love for each other prevail.
Jayathirtha Jayanna's first misstep occurs when he renders these characters either too black or too white. The villains are either brooding or sipping booze (sometimes doing both at the same time) and boast nothing redeeming about themselves. In short, they lack depth and are just deplorable. On the other hand, the two protagonists are almost foolishly innocent and good-natured. If Kaiva is principled and a simpleton, Salma is plain naive - although the intent here is to make us feel for this couple and have us invest our emotions in them, the poor characterization stops us from doing that. For someone who has built a reputation for creating engaging characters on screen, Jayathirtha seems quite off-colour this time around.
The sluggish screenplay doesn't help his cause either. Because of the vast number of characters and the vibrant world that he is dealing with, one senses that the film never really takes off. Instead, for a good part of its runtime, we are offered either inconsequential action sequences (underlined by a more-than-required number of slow-mo shots) or one meet-cute moment of the other. And when the film eventually starts to find its rhythm, which is in the second half, you feel it has all come together a little too late. It isn't that the material in hand is boring. It's more to do with the bland manner in which they are handled.
As far as performances are concerned, Dhanveerah is impressive in the unusual avatar but you find him lacking the required range in certain key moments. Megha Shetty as Salma is endearing, but she hardly has a "role" to play here. The baddies, played by Nanda Gopal, Raghu Shivamogga, Ugramm Manju and others, are frustratingly one-toned. Again, it seems uncharacteristic of Jayathirtha Jayanna to etch characters that boast none of his soft touches, and are instead quite dull and unremarkable.
Ajaneesh B Loknath, who has previously delivered two superb soundtracks with Jayathirtha in 'Bell Bottom' and 'Banaras', unfortunately, does not deliver on the promise this time around. Shwet Priya Naik, who makes her debut as a cinematographer, is quite skilful but the overall visual aesthetics of the film aren't particularly striking.
'Kaiva', as already pointed out, works quite sparingly as a film and that's mainly got to do with the approach. The characters don't carry the emotional depth that we would have liked and nor does the writing make things interesting. What should have been a taut action thriller is ultimately rendered an overlong saga, as a result.