S Ravindranath’s Kannada remake of the hit Telugu film C/O Kancharapalem's shortcoming is in replacing a cast of non-actors with some of the biggest names in Sandalwood. The film stars Dhananjaya, Rachita Ram, Achyuth Kumar, Suhasini Maniratnam, Shivank and Yasha Shivakumar, among others, making you see the actors and not the characters.
Last Updated: 02.09 PM, Sep 19, 2022
Story: Monsoon Raaga is the story of four couples, where each relationship is plagued by social, religious and economic differences. There’s school boy Sundram with a crush on his classmate Suchitra, small-time thug Joseph whose heart beats for the Brahmin lass Ragasudha, liquor shop employee Katte, who has fallen in love with his regular customer, just by seeing her eyes, and finally, office attender Raju, and his budding relationship with the new officer Haasini, a widow with a 20-year-old daughter. Will they find their happily-ever-after?
Review: When the first teaser of Monsoon Raaga came out, it became a talking point in Kannada film circles almost instantly. There was rain, brilliant visuals, great music, no words spoken, and, at the centre of it all was a beautiful couple – Dhananjaya and Rachita Ram.
By the time the trailer was released, which also featured Achyuth Kumar and Suhasini Maniratnam, as well as Yasha Shivakumar, word spread that this much-awaited film that looked very promising was, in fact, a remake. Director S Ravindranath’s film is the Kannada version of the 2018 Telugu film C/O Kancharapalem, which the team did not announce from roof tops. As is the case with most remakes these days, it remained an open secret that the team tried valiantly to keep hidden.
When I caught one of the premiere shows of the film, I had not seen the original, so as not to cloud my judgement. I’d done this with last week’s Lucky Man too and immensely enjoyed the Kannada version. Even if it is a remake, give it the benefit of doubt, I thought. With Monsoon Raaga, though, I must confess, I was a tad confused at first given the style of its narrative. I knew there’d be four stories, but what I didn’t was that the film was actually being narrated in non-linear fashion, which becomes apparent only in the climax. The sequences felt disjointed, but were held together beautifully by the cast onscreen, led by powerhouses like Achyuth Kumar, Dhananjaya, Suhasini, Rachita, among others. By themselves, each of the four stories are beautiful, with the relatively weaker link here being the one featuring Yasha Shivakumar and Shivank as Raagasudha and Joseph.
The final reveal that brings these four stories together is a bit of a downer, especially given the characterizations of Joseph (Shivank) and Katte (Dhananjaya). I just could not wrap my head around this conclusion because of the actors involved. And that is why, I think Monsoon Raaga is a step below the original. I watched C/O Kancharapalem this morning and have to be honest that I liked it more than Monsoon Raaga, even though the latter is a faithful remake.
The beauty of C/O Kancharapalem is that it has a bunch of non-actors in the lead who lend the film a certain earthy charm. It’s been made on a much smaller budget and does not have even half the technical finesse the Kannada version boasts, but it has its heart in the right place and the ‘actors’ come up with credible and very likeable performances. Its setting may be dry, but the film is far from it; the characters are better written and feel more relatable.
Monsoon Raaga is close to 8 minutes shorter in run-time compared to the original and feels rushed in a lot of places, so the natural flow of sequences and more explanatory narrative that the Telugu film had is lost here. Raagasudha’s original character, Bhargavi, is better fleshed out, as is the relationship between Gaddam and Saleema (Dhananjaya’s Katte and Rachita’s Aasma). I’m guessing these were the sacrifices Ravindranath had to make in pandering to Dhananjaya’s star image and including a couple of action pieces in the rain, among others. Dhananjaya's fans apparently need to see him fight. Really? In that sense, Monsoon Raaga’s failing is its cast. No doubt, they are all fantastic performers, with the child actors deserving a special mention, but it takes away the sheen from a large-hearted story. Here, for instance, you see Dhananjaya and Rachita and not Katte or Aasma, which is a disservice to the film.
Monsoon Raaga is a technically well-made film; it is rich and colourful and pleasing to the eye, so full marks to cinematographer SK Rao. It is also extremely pleasing to the ear. Composer Anoop Seelin’s score is the biggest asset of the film and lingers long after you exit the movie hall. Such beautiful use of the violin and flute.
Verdict: Monsoon Raaga is a feel-good romantic drama, but I just can’t shake the feeling that watching the original may be a better bet. C/O Kancharapalem is available to stream on Netflix. If you'd rather watch the Kannada version, then, rest assured, Monsoon Raaga is worth a trip to the theatres.