Bengaluru, the city of both the future and the past, serves as the backdrop to Sastry's story. Madhusudan Govind, Anant Nag, Sai Kumar, Prakash Belawadi, and others star in the film
Last Updated: 03.23 AM, Dec 30, 2022
Suhas, a 20-something IT engineer, quits his promising IT job to realize his dream of owning a startup enterprise. With a noble idea, two ardent friends/partners by his side, and a whole lotta fire in his belly, Suhas makes the headlong plunge into the bustling world of entrepreneurship but quickly realizes that it is a mean, cutthroat place of business. He flounders as he is forced to make the toughest moral & ethical decisions but forges on nevertheless with a ray of hope on the horizon. However, when all hell breaks loose on one eventful day, Suhas' life plummets to the bottom, leaving very little hope to live on. Can he rise again and find his true north? Or does he fall prey to the harsh realities of the startup world?
In Pradeep Sastry's Made in Bengaluru, Bengaluru is both the conundrum and the solution. The city is a juxtaposition of mainly two worlds, he says, with the first one being an unsympathetic foe that throws you in the deep end and the second world later drawing you nearer for a warm motherly embrace, when all the chips are down. The duality lurks around us at all times but there's a good chance we might never encounter it if we tread carefully, living in a sort of merry denial. But if we were to dare to dream, we get to see an underbelly that's full of naysayers, dream killers, bullies, and deceivers of every kind.
For Suhas, the film's protagonist, the journey to reach his dreams involves a most meandering and unexplored path through the city's various facets. As he sets out seeking his own start-up in the silicon valley, he gets caught off-guard, unprepared and is eventually thrown into trenches. But when all hope looks diminished, the same motherly spirit of Bengaluru takes him in, revealing with a caress across his forehead that the answers to all his questions lay right next to him all the time.
Pradeep Sastry's rendition of this story, therefore, comes as an ode to the city that he calls home, rather than an objective look at its convoluted corporate culture. The story is set in the current times when a small group of young men, led by Suhas, takes a headlong plunge into the vast world of startups, mostly unaware of what it takes to make the cut. Suhas and his friends are skilled programmers but we quickly realize that they are also passionate daydreamers who often find themselves tongue-tied in front of venture capitalists, angel investors, and those varieties of bigwigs. Their failing to impress investors means that they have run both their idea and collective fates into a corner, leaving them no option but to work with slightly different kinds of benefactors: Sindhi businessman Prahlad Hiranandani (played by a delightful Anant Nag) offers Suhas a briefcase full of black money while real estate developer and WWE aficionado Reddy comes on board less as an investor and more as a loan shark.
The entire first half of the film is an account of this bustling-yet-baleful side of Bengaluru as it tells us in a leisurely, humorous manner that it's one thing to have a great startup idea but another to actually realize it without losing your mind every now and then. This half brims with the energy that we associate with the corporate ethos: pitch proposals, eminent business meetings, and day-in-day-out slogging sessions inside makeshift incubators. But just when we begin to get comfortable with the narrative, Pradeep Sastry throws a curveball and turns things on their head with a touch of subversion. Suddenly, we see, things have become less professional and a lot more personal for Suhas. Suddenly, we see a semblance of a plot emerge in the film.
The second half of Made in Bengaluru, thereby, is a perplexing entity. In one broad stroke, Sastry, the writer, takes us away from the rousing startup world and leads us into the insides of Suhas' psyche. Suhas is a torn man now and although the reason is important, it's best we don't discuss it here. In a nutshell, his life has changed tones and his face has allowed a bushy bread to grow, with his eyes and demeanour losing the spark they featured previously. His company, the Super Veggies Bros, is depleted of its Bros and Reddy's evil laughter is echoing louder than ever before - neither time nor optimism is on Suhas' side now. To enunciate this, Ashwin PK's soundtrack shifts from upbeat funk and soft rock to something more sombre and less lilting in the second half.
It is at this point that Made in Bengaluru starts to lose you, the viewer, and leaves you a little bemused. Suhas' internal mess manifests itself in strange forms, causing him to take up strange options to get out of trouble and although the events explaining this manifestation are intriguing, you can't help but feel that they belong to a different movie. But we persevere because Pradeep Sastry exudes conviction throughout and we are told subtly that the payoff in the end will make it all worthwhile. He also doesn't mind taking his time in building his world either, and although the film's runtime inches close to 3 hours, the sincerity is apparent throughout. Suhas' journey, as we see it, starts to appear less Steve Jobs-ish and more Paulo Coelo-esque when he overcomes ethical and moral barriers along the way.
The ending of Made in Bengaluru, despite being a slightly far-fetched solution, is a most endearing one because it proves that in a jargon-rich world, simplicity is a rare virtue. In his attempt to sell an idea that he may or may not have clearly imbibed, Suhas loses his authenticity and goes adrift of his true north. But luckily, as life takes him full circle, he returns to his goal with new vigour and tenacity and finds that his ambition isn't as taxing or overbearing as before and that he is a lot closer to his Doddataayi, Bengaluru than ever before.
Madhusudan Govind puts on an assured performance in his debut and he shines particularly in the second half, in the film's most tender and testing moments. He is ably supported by the very impressive Shankar Murthy, who plays the affable Bhatta, Manjunatha Hegde & Sudha Belawadi, who play his parents, and also Puneet Manja and Vamsidhar, who play his two startup buddies.
The show stealers, however, are the three veterans Anant Nag, Prakash Belawadi, and Sai Kumar who fill their quirky characters with a lot of life and believability. Nag as Prahlad Hiranandani is the soul of the film who uses his character's speech impediment not for comic relief but to accentuate the humanistic qualities and lend a unique edge to it. Prakash Belawadi carries a persisting grimace on his face and is funnily called 'Uncle' the entire film: he pulls his role as the Dream Killer with great finesse and comic timing. Sai Kumar, using his inimitable voice, is engaging as Reddy and his entourage of poor man's WWE superstars Jaan Seena, Hundred Taker, and others is particularly entertaining.
Another major highlight of Made in Bengaluru is Ashwin P.K.'s superb and eclectic soundtrack. The debutant composer takes on the mighty challenge of enhancing the complex narrative with his tunes and delivers a memorable album of songs that consists of soothing romance melodies and brooding blues-rock numbers. The Doddataayi tune will likely remain etched in your head for a long time.