Sunil Mysuru's debut film captures the vibrant Orchestra culture of Mysuru with Raghu Dixit's music and Daali Dhananjaya's lyrics being its main highlights. Poornachandra Mysore, Dileep Raj and Rajalakshmi star in main roles
Last Updated: 06.23 AM, Jan 12, 2023
Poorna, the congenial Dental Clinic attendant in Mysuru, dreams of breaking into the bustling orchestra scene of the city. His singing prowess has many ardent fans in his neighbourhood upon whose encouragement he lands the opportunity of being part of the mighty Naveen Raj Orchestra. And just as it all looks bright and rosy, things take a sharp turn when Poorna, in a silly attempt to fast-track his growth, angers Naveen Raj and gets thrown out of the orchestra group. Hell-bent and displeased, Poorna now decides to take charge of his own destiny and forms his own 'team' or orchestra but Naveen Raj's ire and arrogance are such that he is made to face one insurmountable challenge after another - can Poorna beat all odds and live his dream of being an orchestra frontman?
By all means, Sunil Mysuru's Orchestra, Mysuru! is the classic underdog story. At the surface level, one spots an affable protagonist who carries a lovely dream on his sleeve in such a manner that the whole world around, including the audience member, speaks of it at every possible opportunity. There's also the system, its many idiosyncrasies, and of course, the nemesis, who is perched carefully on the top of the chain.
The workings of the underdog film seem well in place and at first glance, the story, too, purports to unfold in familiar ways. When looked closely, Orchestra, Mysuru! is every bit of THAT story but when the gaze is thrown at the film from a relatively far distance, one realizes that Sunil Mysuru has something bigger to say. He wants to tell us that as much as Poorna, the protagonist, is the centre of our attention, he is still not the underdog. Sunil wants to tell us that Poorna is simply the mode, the accomplice to communicate with us that it is the entire system that's the underdog, it is the entire Orchestra culture of Mysuru that's the underdog. It is a charming subversion, you realize as you walk out of the cinema hall, slowly gathering that the film is an ode, more than anything else, to a breed of artists that deserves the platform and the arclights much like anyone else.
And perhaps, that's why the story begins with Naveen Raj and not Poorna. We learn that Naveen's a star orchestra singer whose one and only true desire is to perform at Mysuru's revered Yuva Dasara. He has toiled away for almost two decades and deserves a shot, he says, but his imploration is overlooked every single time because he is only an "orchestra" singer. There are bigger and better 'Bombay' groups, say the authorities. Naveen is a superstar, yes, but the constant rejection has made him feel reduced to the streets, causing him to grow bitter, arrogant, and very delusional.
Poorna, on the other hand, is the stark contrast. He is a daydreamer who visualizes that the entire Gandhinagara, the home to the orchestra culture of Mysuru, will embrace his talent at the first encounter and lay out the red carpet toward glory. Poorna's naivete is charming but you realize that he will soon be disillusioned and who better than Naveen Raj to make that happen? So, when Poorna's unadulterated zest meets Naveen's searing apathy for his talent, the result is of the "make or break" proportions and Orchestra, Mysuru!, in all essence, is about that. Both are talented, sure, but can Poorna's innocence mitigate Naveen's ego?
Much of the charm of Orchestra, Mysuru! lies in this power dynamic. We see Naveen first take Poorna under his wing and then quickly chuck him out of the reckoning, allowing him to come into his own. Dileep Raj is quite superb as Naveen Raj and, honestly, I felt he was the best deal of the lot. His ability to never over-emphasize on emotions and use the disgruntled-yet-stoic face to a great effect elevates the drama in a film that otherwise suffers from being over-expressive and verbose. At one point, I was actually more invested in his story than Poorna's and that's because the actor, combined with the platform set for him by the script, fills the character with life and relevance.
And as a fitting companion on the screen, Poornachandra Mysore delivers his best performance to date and much to our delight, he doesn't overplay the innocent, virtuous guy much but time and again, reveals a more punchy and scrappy side of his personality.
The rest of the cast, including Rajalakshmi, Mahesh Kumar, Ravi Hunsur, KJ Sachu, Rajesh Basavanna, Lingaraju, Mahadeva, and others, fits into the scheme of things really well. Some of the more memorable scenes of the film involve the bit players representing one orchestra team or another - from Mysuru's own Mukesh, SPB, and Sonu Nigam, the film brims with exciting characters.
The screenplay, written by Poornachandra Mysore, Joseph K. Raja and Mahadeva Prasad, uses the beats in mostly routine-ish ways but one does not expect a film like this to be of the kind where the screenplay or the narrative structure stands out. Instead, the audience wishes to see quirks and authentic energy that represents the place mentioned in the title but Orchestra, Mysuru! isn't much about Mysuru but almost entirely about the orchestra scene. While it does everything in its capacity to rally for the former, I was left quite underwhelmed upon realizing that there is very little Mysuru in the film. I was hoping to see the distinctiveness of the city, the inherent culture that only those nestled in it are aware of but that wasn't to be. Aside from a few introductory scenes which set up the context with respect to the Yuva Dasara festival and its relevance to the story, the same film could have been set in any other place in the country and one could see that having no bearing on the narrative. While Dhananjaya's lyrics and Raghu Dixit's eclectic score work perfectly well in capturing the ethos of the city, the visual elements of the film aren't as impressive.
In that regard, the other superstar of the film is, of course, Raghu Dixit's extremely inspired soundtrack. The composer has often spoken of his love for the orchestra culture and how, as a kid growing up in Mysuru, some of his biggest idols were the city's orchestra singers. As the co-producer, Dixit's creative involvement in the film is apparent through the music which essentially includes 8 wonderful songs. Be it the James Brown-meets-Ilaiyaraaja/Hamsalekha sound of 'Sangeetha Sagara' or the very mellifluous 'Nadiyondu', Orchestra, Mysuru! is only buoyed by its music which, as it turns out, also comes as the saving grace during the lacklustre moments of the screenplay. Daali Dhananjaya, as the lyricist, pours his soul into the songs and imbues them with an interesting blend of fun, melancholy and rigour - the Sulla Chandira song being the perfect instance.
Orchestra, Mysuru! is an engaging film, no doubt, but not without its share of shortcomings. The main lacking, so to speak, is that it doesn't utilize the backdrop's distinctiveness to add more flavour to a largely-familiar story and since the screenplay doesn't boast a uniqueness, this facet is likely to stand apart glaringly. But that said, Orchestra, Mysuru! is a film made with all heart and it shows in the manner with which Sunil Mysuru treats his characters' fragile dreams. Every character, small or big, carries a sense of heaviness and a waning desire to make it big in the scene and we see the makers being extremely protective and kind towards them. The film works mainly because of the many endearing moments that play out between Poorna and his buddies, and how the barrage of their small suggestions adds humour and tenderness. Unlike most other films, Orchestra, Mysuru! knows where its heart lies and that's a huge deal when it comes to a film.