Film: "Lucia"; Cast: Satish Neenasam, Shruthi Hariharan, Hardhika Shetty, Achyuth Kumar, Sanjay, Krishna, Rishab, Balaji Manohar and Aryan; Director: Pawan Kumar; Rating: **1/2
With "Lucia", Indian regional films have touched a milestone. A crowdfunded project released under the PVR Director's Rare Banner, this Kannada film is radical in its approach.
It is the story of an unassuming torch bearer Nikki (Satish Neenasam) who works in one of the local theatres in the suburb of Bangalore. He leads a mundane life and suffers from insomnia. On one such sleepless night, he saunters out of his crowded shanty and bumps into a street-side drug peddler, who supplies him a magic pill called 'Lucia'.
The pill, the dealer assures, would not only give him quality sleep, but would also help him in making his dreams come true.
Then begins Nikki's rollercoaster ride with wild experiences. His ambitions, plans, thoughts and imaginations are all intertwined with his nocturnal dreams.
A one-sided romance brews when Nikki meets a girl through a marriage broker. What follows are scenes of glamorous filmy aura and enchanting songs, including a very snazzy item number. There is a children's party, a near-death experience and plenty of heartache. But at the core, the film ingrains the importance of faith, friendship and relationship with absolutely no banalities.
Sathish Nenasam, who makes his debut as the lead, is pretty convincing as Nikki. From sentimentality of an ordinary torchbearer to the razzmatazz of a leading actor, he exhibits a wide range of passions. He is well supported by Shruthi Hariharan, who plays the lead opposite him as a simple, practical girl working at a pizza joint.
Achuth as Shankrana, is remarkable. He emotes with such ease and grace that it's difficult not to compare him with great actors. Also, Nikki's relationship with Shankrana is so reminiscent of the relationship shared between the film director Salvatore Di Vita and the blind Alfredo in the 1988 released Italian film, "Cinema Paradiso".
Apart from the acting, it is the songs that are attention-grabbing. The item number "Jamma, Jamma" is catchy and the song whose lyrics are, "In the sky a broken moona" is mellifluous.
Made at a modest budget of Rs.50 lakh, funded by 110 investors, the production quality of this film is brilliant. The camera work of cinematographer Siddharth Nuni camouflages all the shortcomings and makes a wonderful visual display of the subjects with the 5D camera. The background score by Poornachandra Tejaswi too is exceptionally first rate.
What adds to the complexity of this tale is how the film is mounted. Narrated in a non-linear manner with parallel editing, the story telling gets a bit complicated even when there is a clear demarcation of reality shots in colour and hallucination shots in black and white. Confusion arises when the points of view get overlapped and logic is questioned.
While writer-director Pawan Kumar has made a brave attempt in the presentation of this simple tale, he has force-fed too many subjects like euthanasia, the philosophy of drug marketing, family issues...making the subject loaded and unnecessarily preachy.
Nevertheless, at the end of it, the film which begins with an intriguing and confusing plot, settles down evenly. It's worth a watch for it arouses your attention and provokes you to debate.