Film: "Puttakkan Highway"; Producer: Prakash Raj and Shylaja Nag; Screenplay-Direction: B. Suresha; Story: Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar; Music: Hamsalekha; Camera: H. M. Ramachandra; Cast: Shruthi, Prakash Raj, Veena Sundar, Achyuth Kumar, Mandya Ramesh, Neenasam Aswath, Srinivasa Prabhu, Sihi Kahi Chandru and others. Rating: ***1/2
Just a day before its release, "Puttakkana Highway" bagged the prestigious National Award for the Best Regional Film in Kannada. This naturally raised expectations from the film that features many known artists who are part of the mainstream circuit. "Puttakkana Highway" is B. Suresha's third directorial venture and deals with the serious issue of development versus displacement.
Suresha's second venture "Artha" had been selected for the Indian Panorama and had even won the Best Film Award given by the Karnataka government.
"Puttakkana Highway" is made in the backdrop of the construction of a highway that not only displaces many farmers owning small pieces of land but also shows how greedy contractors and middlemen exploit the situation to their advantage.
The main strength of "Puttakkana Highway" lies in its honest and objective narration.
Suresha narrates the film like an objective investigative journalist who is interested in narrating events as they happen. Unwittingly, this honest narration also reveals the extent of emotional anxieties faced by the displaced people.
How each one of the disturbed lot is made to compromise with realities and be a part of the cruelty in the system becomes evident as the film progresses. Suresha should get laurels for writing the hard-hitting and, sometimes, witty dialogues in the film.
Hamsalekha's music and Yogaraj Bhat's lyrics are top class and fit perfectly with the mood of the film.
Coming to some of the negative points, it has to be said that Suresha could have maintained better pace. The second half is quite interesting as the pace is quicker.
Suresha chronicles the struggles of the protagonist Puttakka who does not succumb to the pressures and still wants to retain her piece of land strictly for emotional reasons.
Her husband's grave is in the piece of land that was given by the government after Puttakka's family migrated from a far off village.
Puttakka's misplaced trust in the panchayat chief and the persistent failures faced by her in her mission to seek justice shatter her.
The film also portrays the big power games played by politicians and greedy contractors who remain insensitive to the plight of the displaced people.
Shruthi who has won two best actress awards - one from Karnataka and the other from Tamil Nadu - has once again delivered a strong performance in the title role. Puttakka's helplessness and frustration comes out strongly through her expressions.
Prakash Raj shines in the role of Shani Krishna and his Mandya accent certainly fits into the role. All the other artists have given their best in this film. All the veteran artists have performed their roles with ease.
"Puttakkana Highway" is a must see for those who want to see different types of films in the Kannada film industry. It is an honest film which needs all encouragement.