Chronicles Of Hari (Harikatha Prasanga) review: Visually appealing piece of art

Ananya Kasaravalli makes a fine feature debut with this Kannada film.

Keyur Seta

Film: Chronicles Of Hari (Harikatha Prasanga)
Rating: 4/5

There are few Indian films that narrate complicated tales with utmost simplicity. There are fewer that present important turns in such stories without using dialogues. Debutant Ananya Kasaravalli’s Kannada movie, Chronicles Of Hari (original title: Harikatha Prasanga), is a classic example of such rare visual narration. 

The film is based on a short story by author Gopalkrishna Pai. A documentary filmmaker and her cameraman pay a visit to the members of a Yakshagana (traditional dance form in Karnataka, India) troupe in a village in Karnataka. They start interviewing a number of members to gain information about their ex-troupe member, Hari (Shrunga Vasudevan). He was famous for his terrific performances as a streepatradhaari (a man who plays a woman). 

However, Hari slowly starts facing an identity crisis related to his gender. As he puts it, he doesn’t know whether he is a “man trapped inside a woman or a woman trapped inside a man.” This starts affecting his family life as well. One day, he vanishes from the village. While some current members from the troupe feel he committed suicide, there are others who disagree with this theory. Further, different people refer to him with different names. What exactly is the truth about Hari? Has he committed suicide?

The most important twist in the story is Hari’s gender confusion and the subsequent cross-dressing that follows. But you can’t pinpoint a single moment when the turn took place. The dilemma is introduced and developed in such a subtle and natural manner that you hardly realise it. This also goes for Hari’s change of clothing. He doesn’t start cross-dressing all of a sudden. It happens in a gradual manner. 

The subject has scope for a lot of melodrama — a man dressing as a woman and showing feminine features in a village full of conservative, even regressive people. But the writing and direction have kept melodrama at bay by beautifully exploring the visual medium to do the rest. It is also worth appreciating the use of silences and facial expressions in conveying emotions. To achieve such results in your first film is indeed an achievement for director Kasaravalli.

Chronicles Of Hari does have a few shortcomings, although minor ones. There is some confusion in the final scene in Hari’s story, which leads the way to his disappearance. Also, the behaviour of a few characters is questionable on a few occasions.

The camerawork perfectly complements the storytelling. It’s real and, at the same time, highly effective. Some visuals of the village look beautiful. The background score blends with the proceedings. It is said that the ideal way of adding a background score is to make sure the audience doesn’t realise its arrival and departure. This holds true in this case. 

To say that Shrunga Vasudevan has lived the character of Hari would be an understatement. The actor has given a tutorial on how to get into the skin of a character. He displays his acting brilliance while effortlessly portraying different states of his mind. It is also sheer luck for the makers to find someone who seems tailor-made for this role. However, in an exclusive chat with, the director revealed that in real life, Vasudevan is nowhere close to his character in the film. 

But the film is not all about his performance. Actors playing Hari’s mother, father, brother and the old-aged companion are perfect in supporting roles. The documentary filmmaker and the cameraman also do well in cameos. 

Overall, Chronicles Of Hari is an example of a fine piece of art. The film deserves a proper commercial release. 

Director: Ananya Kasaravalli
Producers: Basant Productions
Writers: Gopalkrishna Pai, Girish Kasaravalli and Ananya Kasaravalli
Cast: Shrunga Vasudevan
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 105 minutes