True Review



by Utpal Datta June 12 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 30 secs

Prithvi Konanur's 2023 release, "Hadinelenthu", masterfully unveils the deep-rooted caste biases within the educational system and beyond, writes Utpal Datta. The film captivates with its thrilling narrative, compelling performances, and thought-provoking critique, cementing Konanur's reputation as a sensitive and incisive filmmaker. 

'Pinki Elii', a 2022 Kannada-language film, catapulted its director, Prithvi Konanur, to fame with its compelling story, unique presentation, and memorable characters. This success has piqued the interest of film enthusiasts for his next project. In 2023, the highly anticipated 'Hadinelenthu' was released, earning a spot in the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

The film starts with the closing situation of an elite high school in the city. Students Hari and Deepa share an intimate moment in a classroom. During that time, Hari gives her a locket engraved with the words 'I love you'. The scene ends with Hari recording a video of their intimate moment on his cell phone. Throughout the film, sporadic title cards are displayed. After this scene, the last title card appears, marking the beginning of the main story.

There is a sports event happening on the school playground. Hari is among the spectators, showing a video on his mobile to some boys nearby. From their gestures, it seems the video is about the female body. The next scene occurs the following day, with school in session and boys and girls arriving. Hari enters college, and his friend informs him that the Principal has summoned him. Hari goes to the Principal's room, where he is scolded and asked to call his parents. This moment marks the beginning of the central dramatic tension of the film: the school begins discussing the possibility of expelling the boy and the girl. The boy comes from a wealthy family, so the school management body is lenient towards him. The girl, on the other hand, comes from a low-income family and belongs to a lower caste, so there is no one to show sympathy for her. The discussions start in this manner but gradually intensify.

What starts as a personal incident soon spirals into a full-blown controversy, drawing in various sections of society. The school community, parents, social workers, the court, and the police, all get embroiled in the situation. Through this narrative, Prithvi Konanur shines a harsh light on the prevalent caste discrimination in certain parts of India. Deepa, a member of the oppressed Dalit community from an economically disadvantaged background, and Hari, from an upper-middle-class Brahmin family, are the central figures in this societal drama. The film's critique is clear: the different social statuses and the discriminatory attitudes towards the accused, based on their caste and economic background, paint a grim picture of society.

Some deliberately try to destroy Deepa's bright prospects as a player. On the contrary, the upper-caste family plans to send Hari to study abroad. The bias expressed by the school principal exposes another facade of caste discrimination. The composition of the committee formed to decide the punishment for the accused, with four upper-caste and only one lower-caste teacher, reveals the administration's mindset in the educational institution.

As the story unfolds, the families of the two accused come into the picture. The entry of various characters at different stages makes the narrative pacy. The technique of unravelling the story is akin to that of a thriller. Prithvi Konanur has skilfully created and sustained the curiosity of 'What will come next?' His portrayal of how caste and economic discrimination permeates different levels of society, getting expressed sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly when opportunities arise, is a testament to his skill in depicting societal issues. His self-restrained neutrality and epic detachment lends him the dignity of a sensitive artist. His earlier film 'Pinki Elii' also depicted the life and struggles of marginalized people.

The film moves at a thrilling pace but doesn't rely on surprising camera angles to create excitement, even though the story provides opportunities. The director's art is to depict a picture of society impartially. Arjun Raja's cinematography aligns with this. Many outdoor school scenes show the veranda, with parallel and perpendicular lines of grills and railings against pale, clean backgrounds, adding complexity to the shots in line with the film's narrative. The cinematographer uses a handheld camera in parts, and the resulting slight jerkiness adds another dimension to conveying the mental unrest of the characters. The physical intimacy video is the film's driver, but the director doesn’t show it to the audience. However, viewers can easily guess its contents.

Editor Sivakumar Swamy has skilfully weaved shots of different moods into a seamless flow, keeping pace with the story's progressive momentum and adding to the film's appeal. Sherlyn Bhosle delivers a lively and authentic portrayal of Deepa's inner turmoil and despair, while Rekha Kudligi convincingly portrays the role of the school principal. All the actors, through their authentic embodiment of their characters, have successfully elicited a strong emotional response from the audience.

The standout feature of 'Hadinelenthu' is its ability to provoke thought and discussion on the harsh reality of caste discrimination, touching upon various aspects of society through an important issue in contemporary times. The film contains too much dialogue; reducing it and giving prominence to visual images in some scenes could have made the aesthetic meaningful. However, the film's thought-provoking narrative and its ability to spark discussions on such a sensitive topic is a testament to its impact.

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