Review Kannada

Mookajjiya Kanasugalu review: Cinematic tribute to a celebrated literary work

Release Date: 20 May 2019 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 00min

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

National award-winning filmmaker P Sheshadri’s latest film brings Shivarama Karanth’s celebrated novel Mookajjiya Kanasugalu to the big screen.

Celebrating 50 years of Shivarama Karanth’s 1968 Kannada novel Mookajjiya Kanasugalu, P Sheshadri’s eponymous film offers a tribute to the Jnanpith award-winning novel through its cinematic adaptation.

The title translates as Grandmother Mooka's Visions and traces the life of an extraordinary woman, Mookajji, who, though shunned by society, becomes a repository of wisdom through her unusual gift.

As India is fighting for independence, it remains shackled by antiquated customs and traditions. Young Mookambika is a victim of child marriage and is widowed at an early age. Branded as a harbinger of ill fortune, she is forced to follow customs that condemn her to live a life on the margins.

Though she bears repeated humiliation for some time, Mookambika eventually lashes out and challenges these customs, only to be ostracized by the community. Choosing silence as a recourse, Mookambika becomes Mookajji (B Jayashree), a name that signifies a mute, old woman.

But Mookajji is blessed with the gift of foreknowledge and can delve into the past through objects that become her gateway to other worlds, revealing the stories of those who possessed them. It is this ability to see beyond the obvious that endears her to her grandson Subraya (Aravind Kuplikar), who is mesmerized by her stories while most villagers, including his wife Seeta, dismiss her as just another mumbling old woman.

There are several layers in Sheshadri’s film as it explores the unusual trajectory of the life of Mookajji. Through her stories and explorations through objects, she traces human history and evolution when Subraya finds an ancient object and brings it to her, interpreting evolution as being littered with violence fuelled by the desire of man for supremacy and power. With such fascinating insights and access to hidden knowledge that reveals characters and situations before they take place, Mookajji comes to be revered by her family.

With a protracted narrative, Sheshadri’s adaptation takes a while to draw the viewer in and the incidents at some points seem disjointed as the film interweaves the contemporary with the past and layers it with stories of other people or moments.

However, the cinematography by G Bhaskar is particularly notable as the beauty and remoteness of the village and its life is captured vividly. The filmmaker also uses several techniques to weave the various layers of the narrative together, employing the use of sepia tint for flashbacks, shadow hand puppetry for depicting historical events and movements, all of which create a vivid telling of the stories.

There are also certain charming moments in the film, like the friendship between Mookajji and her childhood friend Thippi. Despite the passage of the years, they are as excited as young girls to meet each other.

The multiple National award-winning filmmaker has mentioned that the adaptation of a work of this stature and depth is an ambitious project. But the cinematic rendering of the novel does justice to this mesmerizing tale as it slowly comes alive in visual form.

Mookajjiya Kanasugalu was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on Monday 20 May 2019.

Related topics

Habitat Film Festival

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