IFFI special: Sanchari Vijay’s last film raises queries on development vs nature

The recent Kannada film Taledanda depicts how one man’s perseverance can save a forest

Kannada film Taledanda depicts how one man’s perseverance can save a forest

At a time when Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are witnessing protests against felling of trees and conversion of forests for various development activities, predominantly for road laying projects like the Chennai-Salem Expressway or Ejipura-Kendriya Sadan flyover, the recent Kannada film Taledanda depicts how one man’s perseverance can save a forest.

The film, screened at the international film festival at Goa on November 23, was the last work of award-winning actor Sanchari Vijay, who died in a motorcycle accident on June 15, 2021.

The story takes place in Hadialli village in Chamrajnagar, Karnataka, home of Soliga tribes. There live the couple Jademada (played by Ramesh Pandit) and Kethamma (Mangala N), with their special needs child Kunnegowda (Sanchari Vijay).

Jademada works in a forest department-owned nursery as a labourer. Having a deep knowledge of forests and trees, he helps villagers by curing their ailments using herbals. His son Kunna imbibes the thought from his father to protect the trees. Every now and then, Jademada teaches his son about trees and how they provide oxygen, rain and food. Soon, Kunna too is involved in planting tree saplings in the forest.

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Suffering from sickle cell anaemia, Jademada dies after a brief illness. Kethamma then gets a job in the nursery on compassionate ground. Since Kunna is not in a position to realise that his father is dead, he considers the trees as his father. For him the goddess Attilakamma is the mother of forests.

Kunna plays with his childhood friend Saaki (Chaitra Achar) and it is the forest and trees that become his second home, school, friends, relatives and literally everything. He is dotted by his mother and all was going well until one day, when Kunna comes across the government officials.

Since the village has no road facilities, the MLA Doddaranga (Mandya Ramesh) plans to lay a road. Accordingly the plan also gets a go ahead. But Doddaranga has an ulterior motive. He asks the officials to change the plan and according to the new plan, the road will extend inside a forest that requires a felling of about 150 trees. By doing so, the politician calculates that the market price of that forest area will come down, so that he can buy the area for a flat rate. But the official resists. However, after some intimidation he accepts to go with the new plan.

When the survey officials comes to the village, knowing that they are going to fell the trees, Kunna pleads with them by saying how the trees helps humans. He begs them saying that if the trees are not there, the earth becomes hot and there will be no rains. Rejecting his arguments, the officials try to go ahead with the plan. At that time, Kunna manhandles the officials and finally lands in the police station.

The police produce him in court and the court orders the government to check the health condition of Kunna and to submit a report, so that based on the report the judgment will be passed. The doctors in the hospital, after knowing his background, with a help of a human rights activist sends him to a rehabilitation centre for three months.

Meanwhile, knowing the case of Kunna, an award winning botanist, Prof Prakruthi (B Suresh), arrives at the village and takes up a research. In his study, he finds that the forest which is earmarked for the road project has Saraka Asoka trees, which are endangered and have a medicinal value that can be used in gynaecology. He comes to know that Kunna single-handedly planted most of the trees without knowing its benefits. Explaining all these things to the villagers, he brings people together in opposing the road project.

In between, Kunna completes his three month treatment at the centre and is relieved by the court. What happens when he returns to his village, whether he is able to save the trees and at what cost, form the rest of the story.

Without any doubt one can say, it is an out and out film of Sanchari Vijay because it is his characterisation that holds the film for two hours. Attired in mud-smeared shirt and half trousers, protruding teeth and sporting a sympathetic look, Vijay has brought the character alive with his body language and mannerisms. Mangala through his character Kethamma, exuded the motherly affection that works well.

Directed by a Karnataka-based guest lecturer Praveen Krupakar, though the film is not preachy about environment it misses some finer details while talking about sickle cell anaemia.

It is a rare blood disorder, commonly found among tribes due to endogamy and hence it is passed hereditarily. The people who have this disease lead a life like any other normal person but often having body pains. If it is not properly treated it can lead to premature death. But the film had projected that as a some kind of virus or sorts, so that once you contracted a person will die immediately.

Ashok Cashyap’s cinematography brings the green and chill of Chamrajnagar and Hari Kavya’s music is pleasant to ears. The film crew is sure about that Vijay can win national award for the second time for his character Kunna. If he wins the award there is no surprise because he had left the world showing hard work always pays.

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