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Kamblihula review: An refreshing coming-of-age tale that steers clear of cliches

The title 'Kamblihula' carries the literal meaning of a caterpillar in Kannada. The film uses the metaphor to present a tale of blossoming or one's coming of age in life.

3/5rating
Kamblihula review: An refreshing coming-of-age tale that steers clear of cliches
A still from Kamblihula
  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 01.39 PM, Nov 05, 2022

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Story:

Told as a series of flashbacks, Kamblihula centres on the young Nataraja's many vibrant encounters with love, life, and everything in between. Unwilling to remain a civil engineer in his hometown, Nataraja dreams of being a filmmaker one day but most of his time is whiled away in the company of his friends. Things take a sharp turn when he falls for the local tea vendor's daughter, Swati and the cultural differences (since she is Malayali), along with the fact that Nataraj has no proper means to lead a life with her, threaten to separate the lovers. Can Nataraj survive life's myriad challenges to realize his one true passion and also win Swati's hand?

Review:

2022 has been a refreshing year for Kannada cinema for myriad reasons. Aside from the well-noted commercial exploits, the year has also been a sturdy platform for a number of debutant filmmakers who, through cinema, have cast a glowing light on their respective cultures and traditions. In the same vein comes Navan Sreenivas' Kamblihula, a tender tale about coming of age and encountering life's many conundrums that is firmly rooted in the ethos of this Gandhada Gudi. 

Set in the intimate town of Kammaradi in the Chikkamagalur district, Kamblihula bustles with energy and candour as it chronicles the lives and times of the many young men and women of the town. At the centre of it all is Nataraja (Anjan Nagendra), a happy-go-lucky civil engineer who daydreams of being a filmmaker but does very little in terms of effort to realize that. The cause of his procrastination is his vibrant set of friends which comprises electrician Nagesh (Rohith Kumar), auto rickshaw driver Pradeep or 'Chongi', and the local restaurant cook Vasanna (the ever-reliable Deepak Rai Panaje). Each of the four carries a quirk, a distinct outlook towards life and even a unique obstacle to overcome but the common facet to them all is the fierce loyalty toward one another. And as Nataraja, or Nata, treads his path toward his goals, his pals too encounter their own tests and obstacles and the film glides along with one exciting escapade after another, exploring a gamut of emotions in each one of them. 

Kamblihula, unlike other coming-of-age movies, does not confine the 'non-hero' elements as mere placeholders for an inconsequential joke or assistance in action sequences. Instead, the film allows each character to own a personality and also contribute to the story in definitive terms, without letting the main protagonist be the only centre of attention. It's in these scenes of banter and situational humour that writer and director Navan Sreenivas brings out the flavour of his world and sets his film apart from the rest. 

The film's crux, however, is Nataraja's love story which becomes a defining period in his life, compelling him to take charge of his destiny. Nata falls for Swati (Ashwitha Hegde), the daughter of the local tea vendor, and the fact that she is Malayali, a person belonging to a different culture altogether makes things quite interesting. The romance track starts off on a comical note with the cultural differences evoking a few laughs but it is apparent that the rosy present is heading toward a gloomy tomorrow and when Swati's family does threaten to take her away, their love only intensifies and becomes stronger. One might have seen this to be a persisting pattern in cinema but where Navan Sreenivas, the writer, infuses nuance is by lending his love story the local touch. Swati and Nataraja's romance is every bit a representation of the small-town reality where girls cover themselves in burkhas and masquerades for a rendezvous, where the boys feign emergencies and silly ploys to catch a glimpse of their girlfriends inside their homes, and where lovers make long-enduring promises to be together forever.

On the other hand, Kamblihula falters a little in trying to stitch a crime angle into the narrative. Though the crime in itself of frog smuggling is quite interesting, it has very little bearing on the story and only adds to the runtime of the film. However, judging by the end credits, it would seem that the makers have a part II in mind which, supposedly, will come to life if the current release is successful.

Verdict:

Kamblihula is enterprising in most parts and the biggest highlight of the film is its treatment. Director Navan Sreenivas stays away from the cliches and attempts to tell a story wholeheartedly, even willing to go overboard at times. Some of the sequences might seem excessively sentimental and overbearing but luckily they do not hamper the flow all that much. The team must be credited for pulling off an entertaining film without any solid budget or resources but based on the turn-outs in cinema halls today, on the opening day, Kamblihula is likely to have a very limited reach. It would be interesting to see how the film fares after all at the box office.

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