Rajesh Dhruva co-writes, directs, and acts in the film that also stars Ravi Salian, Ravi Mururu, Sampath J Ram, Radhika Achuthrao, and others
Last Updated: 04.44 PM, Jan 06, 2023
Puttu is in no mood to continue living the menial life as a photographer. He might be the go-to guy for all of Kavalakki but the fact that no one in the town respects his "creativity" irks him to the maximum. So, hell-bent on leaving the small town for greener pastures, Puttu seeks a bank loan but, for that, he has to mortgage his Shri Balaji Photo Studio - one that he inherited from his father. Soon enough, much to his dismay, he learns that his late father had already mortgaged it with Shankaranna, the local honcho. Desperate and despondent, Puttu then hatches an outrageous plan that only complicates his life further - can he find a through the mess and emerge a winner?
Creativity is the operative word in Rajesh Dhruva's Shri Balaji Photo Studio and this latest comedy-crime film brims with it. The popular TV star, who directs and also stars as the lead in the film, puts together an experience that is both fun-filled and authentic, and much of it can be attributed to the conviction with which he does the job.
As the director of the film, Dhruva exudes a lot of confidence as he transports us, the viewers, into an intimate world that's filled with unique and memorable characters. And as the leading man, he carries the film on his shoulders and ensures that his character, which is the soul of the film, is highly relatable and entertaining at the same time.
Much of the charm of Shri Balaji Photo Studio stems from its rootedness. Set in the small town of Kavalakki in the Honnavara district, the story unfolds in a leisurely manner as the director handholds us into his world, introducing each character and facet of Kavalakki with great intimacy. One is likely to be reminded of films like Maheshinte Prathikaaram, Kumbalangi Nights, and the kind wherein the world on the other side of the screen evokes a sense of charming familiarity.
Rajesh Dhruva also keeps things fairly believable and does not get carried away by commercial conventions while designing his characters. While he infuses humour to our amusement, the people in the film are relatable and realistic - be it Puttu, the protagonist's, tea-loving insurance salesman Suresha (Ravi Salian) or the town roughie Shankaranna (Sampath J Ram), the viewer will find each character from the ensemble very distinct yet familiar. This is another instance of Dhruva's nuanced approach.
The principal cast of Shri Balaji Photo Studio also includes many lesser-known but talented actors such as Ravi Mururu, Radhika Achuthrao, Nakul Sharma, Shubha Lakshmi, and Rakshith N., among others: each actor completely owns the character and adds life to the film.
As far as the storyline is concerned, the team of writers comprising Abhijith Sirsi, Pruthvikanth L, Rajesh Dhruva and dialogue Boppanalli treats a routine subject with many interesting twists and subversions, ensuring that the plot always remains intriguing. While the first half focuses mostly on Puttu's status quo and his struggles to get out of Kavalakki, the second half takes the form of a comedy-crime caper and offers excitement in abundance. One would reckon that the film could be at least 20 minutes shorter, implying that the narrative could be tighter and more effective: one of the main drawbacks of the film is its inability to conclude the story at the right point.
Another major highlight of Shri Balaji Photo Studio is the use of music: Sri Ram Gandharva's songs are non-intrusive and pleasant while Swastik Karekad's background score carries a strong flavour and characteristics of the local milieu.
Shri Balaji Photo Studio is a highly enjoyable film that features many novelties - be it the enterprising plot or the physical setting that's authentic and charming. Ably supported by a talented cast, Rajesh Dhruva shines in his role as Puttu and manages to navigate the complex story in an assured manner. Sure, the film has a few shortcomings but they all are negligible in the larger scheme of things. Among the many releases this week, Shri Balaji Photo Studio is most deserving of a visit to the theatres - do give this exciting venture a shot.