The common man’s whim is a desirable virtue. It can be frowned upon by so many in our societies, having their miniature muscle memories of ‘vaastu’,‘kaala’ and ‘jataka’. In Ondu Motteya Kathe, ‘Janardhan’ shows us a few pages of his life, in one of the most understated, smooth and subtle performances in Kannada cinema. Words are merely anchors which one uses to convey a narrative in a creative voyage. Expression is everything.
We go through our lives through the same dilemma at some time in our lives. We start caring about how we look from the outside, after we get a frustrated for being on the inside for too long. Janardhan (Played by Raj B. Shetty) faces the this confusion. He is teased by everyone for his balding head. Motte! Motte! (egg! Egg!) There are students that chant these words to the encore of the whole class. This pushes him into thinking why people never take him seriously. He is a 28 year old man working as a Kannada professor in a school in Mangalore, Karnataka. The shape of his head is revealing itself day by day and comically his days go into a series of events that invite him to the truth of any living civilization. ‘The armor cannot be judged by how shiny it is. You realize its strength only from the inside.’ There are delightfully comical ‘moha’ments in the film when his Peon, Srinivas (Played by Prakash Thuminad), helps him out in understanding love, lust and fun. In one of his finest performances, Prakash Thuminad reminds us of a man who has been through calm and restless journeys. The orange juice with tragically sinking flies give us a glimpse of the same ritual of serving the guests with something cold and colourful while judging the ‘status’ of the guest family. The comical principal in the college gives us a flavor of how important student problems are settled with just sarcasm and money, which happens in innumerable educational institutions across India. The warm sofa of a random family, with everyone analyzing every nook and corner of our humanity or future, a handsome lecturer sinking Janardhan’s only desires for love are some of the few events that makes Janardhan want to quit functioning as a human being. He tries the usual ‘lunchbox-love letter’ routine to win the love of a simple, pretty economics professor. Every scene has been conveyed with minimal attention to the ‘way it is being presented’ by shifting focus to the evolution of characters and respect for their silences too. We have grown wiser as audiences in the past few decades with fast cuts, odd edits and jump scenes. Raj B Shetty(writer and director of OMK) has finally shown how a simple narrative can be told in the most interesting, delightful and unpretentious of ways. Human expression is our ancestral and wholesome form of communication. And we should use it to our advantage. The audience is tired of ‘being told’ or ‘being told to’. What makes these two hours impactful is that we start to see the movie after we walk out of the theatre too. A good movie never stops. It continues at the traffic lights, at our apartments, in our buses and the people we see. As Marshall McLuhan says, ‘The medium is the message’. Once we get a taste of a few minutes of this movie, we become the movie. The scene which touches us the most is the lunch where Srinivas invites Janardhan to celebrate his 4th wedding anniversary with his wife. His wife smiles throughout her graceful silence and reacts intently as Srinivas explains that he need not hear her when she speaks through the phone. The most beautiful things need not be heard or seen. They have to be felt.
Ondu Motteya Kathe has a wonderfully woven mis-en-scene which reminds us of fragrant organic Iranian cinema styles. Simple, minimal dialogue and detailed character sketches. The sound design and music by Midhun Mukundan is excellent. Dinner conversations end up with just the rice and the fingers doing the talking. The sultry wait outside the astrologer’s house is reminiscent with the sounds of cows, winds, plants and mild traffic. The songs glue the narrative strips quite well with their short lengths, simple lyrics and comical recitation. It is humbling to know that such teams are doing excellent productions with whatever resources they have, wherever they are. This should promote the debunking of the idea of cinema being capital-city centric phenomena. Stories are told everywhere and can be told by anyone. As members of the cinematic fraternity, it is our duty to encourage such powerful productions that remind us of how wonderfully simple and happy a movie can make us feel. Raj B Shetty has brought together a magnificently hard working team that has made justice to a delightfully well written script in the most modest of ways. Kudos to the team!