In Santhosh Ananddram’s Raghavendra Stores, the shift from one plot point to another is so abrupt that it’s hard to comprehend the film’s central theme.
You think the film is about Hayavadana (Jaggesh), a diligent cook at a traditional eatery called Raghavendra Stores, and his struggles to find a bride at 40. As you get warmed up to his quest to find his significant other, you are introduced to a parallel track of a corrupt political party worker Kumar (Achyuth Kumar). He fakes generosity at a local mutt that houses hundreds of orphaned children to get an MLA ticket ahead of elections.
Juggling between these two tracks, Raghavendra Stores, a Hombale Films production, offers a hurried commentary on a host of topics like late marriages, infertility, surrogacy, adoption, hunger, and the inseparable combination of caste and politics. It’s not a wise idea to burden the screenplay with an overstuffed plot when your film’s runtime is sub-two hours. Due to the director’s lack of focus, it’s hard to feel for any character or conflict, as Raghavendra Stores turns out to be a hotchpotch of a film with few bright spots.
The film’s crucial sequences fail to pack a punch. There are many, but if I have to pick, then the two glaring proofs of Ananddram’s poor writing and staging are seen in how Hayavadana meets his potential life partner (Shwetha Srivatsav) at a wedding, and how the protagonist’s desperateness to have sex convinces him to look for an isolated spot in a hospital.
Raghavendra Stores (Kannada)
Director: Santhosh Ananddram
Cast: Jaggesh, Shwetha Srivatsav, Dattanna, Achyuth Kumar, Mithra
Runtime: 104 minutes
Storyline: A 40-year-old virgin cook, desperate to find a bride, goes on a bridal hunt with his father. After a tough ride, he finds his significant other, but life doesn’t turn rosy for the newlyweds for they face one unexpected hurdle after another.
It’s realistic to show a 40-year-old virgin’s persistent sexual desire, and this is where Jaggesh shines by bringing to life this character with his hilarious expressions and body language. But the film goes overboard with this idea, leading to crude comedy. The film’s humour, in general, is reduced to some terrific one-liners. That said, Ananddram’s handling of characters portraying specially-abled people could have been a lot better.
One wonders how the film would have turned out had it explored the many layers of late marriage. We don’t often see such ideas in Kannada cinema. Ananddram dumbs down the idea to accommodate a political angle that offers us nothing new. Resort politics and leaders slapping party workers are sensational news stories from Karnataka politics firmly in the minds of people, but the film doesn’t give them new insights on these events.
Like in all his films, Ananddram is insistent to infuse the final act with manipulative melodrama. He likes to keep his films in the ‘socially responsible’ category to attract the family crowd. This approach worked in Raajakumara, and Yuvarathnaa, thanks to the adequate build-up to the emotional endings; in Raghavendra Stores, the tonal shift is jarring because of the plot’s consistent lack of rhythm.
Shwetha Srivastav’s character deserved more agency and depth to give her the room to perform. Despite its familiarity, Jaggesh’s performance keeps us interested in the film, and Raghavendra Stores will work for his fans.
It could also win the hearts of those looking for an inspiring message in a film. Raghavendra Stores wants to be well-meaning — it ends with an appeal for people to embrace the joy of giving without any expectations in return. Yet, it lacks cinematic brilliance. The disappointment is more when you know it’s from a director who debuted with a terrific masala film (Mr. and Mrs. Ramachari), promising exciting content in the mainstream space.
Raghavendra Stores will hit the screens on April 28