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Kaatera Movie Review: Kaatera: A film that brings out Darshan in his full glory as a mass hero and performer

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Plot: Kaatera (Darshan Thoogudeepa), a weaponsmith, has to tackle multiple challenges to help the farmers of his village implement the Land Reforms Act that makes a tiller the owner. Can a one-man army bring the much-needed change in society?

Review: Heaps of skeletons found near Bheemanahalli village raise suspicion about a possible massacre that may have taken place in the locality. The skeletons are soon moved to a forensic lab to explore their origins. We are then introduced to Kaatera (Darshan Thoogudeepa), an old, on parole, heading home for his village festival, along with a constable (Achyut Kumar). After a deadly attack, Kaatera opens up about his past to the constable. Back in the 70s, Kaatera, a weaponsmith in Bheemanahalli, was known for his honesty and courage. He was in love with Prabhavati (Aradhana Ram), who belonged to a different caste. Meanwhile, the farmers of Bheemanahalli were tired of the atrocities of feudalists Devaraya and Kaalegowda (Jagapathi Babu & Vinod Alva respectively). When the Land Reforms Act is introduced, the villagers see a ray of hope to escape from the cruel clutches of Devaraya and Kaalegowda. Kaatera becomes the villagers’ messiah. Can he take over the mighty feudalists? Does Kaatera have anything to do with the heaps of skeletons found in the beginning of the film?

The past few years have been all about Darshan manifesting as a larger-than-life hero on screen. In most of his interviews, he was often posed the question of being a part of performance-oriented movies like Namma Preethiya Ramu again, which brought out the artiste in him. Some fans, too, had lamented about Darshan the performer hiding behind Darshan the mass-commercial hero. Kaatera blends the two together and presents the star in his full glory – as a mass hero as well as a performer. Director Tarun Sudhir gets full marks for blending it seamlessly. The young Darshan is as likeable as the grey-haired Darshan. The movie is etched exclusively for Darshan and his fans. His towering screen presence makes it up for the shortcomings in screenplay and narrative. Debutant Aradhana is promising, she stands out in the second half with a solid performance. For a debutant, that too in a commercial caper like Kaatera, which rides heavily on heroism, Aradhana gets enough screen space to prove her mettle.

Kaatera also has power-packed performances by veterans Jagapathi Babu, Kumar Govind, Vinod Alva, Avinash, Vaijanath Biradar and Shruthi. The movie is indeed a perfect comeback for both Kumar and Alva. The villains are one-toned and templated, but that doesn’t hamper the tenor of the film, considering that this is a commercial caper between good and evil.

The rustic, raw, rooted content, that aims to drive home a message, is the biggest plus of Kaatera. Set in the 70s, director Tarun Sudhir explores the themes of casteism, honour killing, feudalism and more while also throwing light on an age-old ‘Holemari’ custom. Writer Jadesh Kumar Hampi has to be credited for shedding light on this topic. Masti’s dialogues are good, but it needed a stronger punch in a few places. V Harikrishna’s BGM stands out in mass-elevation scenes. BGM is an unsung hero of Kaatera. In the music album, Pasandagavne and the title track are humdingers. Action sequences, especially the one in the second half, is very well made.

One major thing that stops Kaatera from being an excellent film is its runtime. Three hours is a bit too long for the subject that the filmmaker has tried to explore. The first half could have been tailored better on the edit table. The two back-to-back duet songs between Darshan and Aradhana, within the first few minutes of the film, slows down the pace. The film takes off only after an hour or so after slowly establishing all the main characters. Also, a few sequences involving women (Aradhana and Shruthi) needed a little more sensitivity. The climax gets a bit preachy, trying to send out a message, which may not appeal to Darshan’s ‘mass fans’.

The movie drives home an important message while being a perfect star vehicle for Darshan. Now is a good time to say, ‘Welcome back, Darshan – the performer.’

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