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Review Kannada

Dollu review: Spirited shattering of the rigid boundaries of tradition to preserve art

Release Date: 26 Aug 2022 / Rated: U / 01hr 46min

Cinestaan Rating

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Kannada-language feature by Sagar Puranik appeals for a widening of the boundaries of tradition to become inclusive.

Sagar Puranik’s debut feature, the Kannada-language film Dollu (2022), takes an incisive look at the popular folk art form of Karnataka, Dollu Kunitha. Produced by Pawan Wadeyar and Apeksha Purohit, the film stars Karthik Mahesh, Babu Hirannaiah and Nidhi Hegde.

The film examines the anxiety around a waning folk dance form through a group of Dollu players. Led by Bhadra, the young boys are filled with hopes and dreams for their future, but as artistes performing at temples, they have very little means to survive.

The clash between ideals and reality leads them to accept offers to play at wedding functions, which is seen as a dilution of the art form. But as they see their peers moving to the city and doing well, they are lured with dreams of a better life.

The exit of one team member seals their fate and the group gets disbanded with only Bhadra sticking to his idealistic outlook about the future for Dollu Kunitha. With the lack of performers for the annual festival in the village, the priest bemoans the fact that for the first time, the festival will take place without the traditional dance. However, Bhadra is determined to find a solution and treads an unconventional path to achieve his goal.

The film begins with a folk song that wonders ‘Who is the demon?’. Puranik’s film seems to reverberate with this question wherein rapid urbanization, the gaping divide between city and village, the increasing disconnect of the youth from their traditions and cultural roots, are concerns melded together. Through its portrayal of exacting city life, the film portrays the harsh reality that lies behind the lure of jobs and a better life.

Although the viewpoint is simplistic and moralistic in tone, the film tries to navigate a middle path between the life of poverty that most artistes are doomed to lead and the economic realities of life.

Foregrounding the art form, Puranik’s film takes us through the legend behind the art form and also explores the reason why musical instruments are such an integral part of religious functions, giving it relevance in today’s times.

The film with a social message appeals for a widening of the boundaries of tradition so that it becomes inclusive and opens itself to everyone irrespective of gender or class, instead of remaining rigid and insular.

While the film clearly displays a nostalgia for the dance form, it is nonetheless practical in its social message of moving on with the times if one hopes to preserve the art.

The pace of the film slackens in a few places and some depictions of city life are predictable. However, the most stunning moments in the film are the Dollu performances. The cinematography captures the rhythm, movement and sheer pulsating energy of the dance form ably performed by a mix of talented actors and trained practitioners of Dollu Kunitha, all of which leads to a powerful climax. The music and choreography are also noteworthy. This is an assured debut by a young filmmaker.

Dollu was screened at the Habitat International Film Festival 2022 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.


Related topics

Habitat Film Festival

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