Kannada film PUTTAKKANA HIGHWAY story

• DIRECTOR B Suresha
• ACTORS Shruti, Prakash Rai, Achyuth Kumar, Neenasam Ashwath, Srinivas Prabhu, Mandya Ramesh

Undoubtedly, it is one of the biggest challenges facing the country: the conflict between development and the subsequent displacement of people in hordes. B Suresha’s National awardwinning kannada film, based on an old story by Nagatihalli Chandrashekhar, is a take (though it does not specify) on the NICE corridor being built between Bangalore and Mysore.

Though there are characters which are happy to cruise on the new highway at 200 kmph, the kannada film is mostly about Puttakka and her struggle to save her piece of land through which the highway is proposed.

Puttakka is not alone in her struggle. The rest of the villagers also feel it is better to retain the land than pick up the compensation offered.

But one by one, they fall to the pressure and sell out. But Puttakka does not succumb to the doles, but it is a mismatch from the very beginning.

You know she will not win. So, the film becomes only a chronicle of her struggle and the effect a big project --like a highway -- has on village life. The struggle becomes a 'universal phenomenon' rather than a focused look at a problem as the filmmaker plays safe by not even mentioning the name of Bangalore.

In a bid to show that migration is universal, B Suresha makes the villagers speak in various Kannada accents. It is not as convincing as showing a Telugu-speaking labourer on the highway and Tamil-speaking vendor on a city (understood to be Bangalore) street.

The kannada film is ‘rich’ by art-house standards. Surely, it does not look like a cheap attempt aimed at minimising costs. Brilliant cinematography by Ramachandra makes it visually stunning as well.

Each character is well defined, giving space for the actors to excel. Kannada music director Hamsalekha's music and Yograj Bhat's lyrics are the highlights of the film. Though the kannada film tells every fact about the negative effects of big development projects, it does not bother to challenge the usual perceptions. It is rather a textbook effort at presenting serious questions ad answers. You know the answer and the fact that it is not the solution. A god ride, but it lacks a soul.