Pushpaka Vimana (2016)

(#) 6.5/10
(+) Bhuvan Gowda’s cinematography, Charan Raj’s music, Yuvina Parthavi
(-) Story, screenplay, direction and just about everything else not mentioned earlier


When the official teaser of Pushpaka Vimana was released almost a year ago, fans of the new age of Kannada cinema were sure about one thing – that they’ll get to see the best movie in a decade. It had to be. Extraordinary visuals, soulful music, a cute little girl, a mentally-challenged father played by Ramesh Aravind and an aeroplane that the father-daughter duo are after. The film had to click.

For any actor, especially in this modern-day context, reaching the 100-movie milestone while keeping yourself relevant to a wide range of audience is a dream. If Ramesh had achieved this in a Rahul Dravid-esque well-planned, well-executed four, I’d have been very very happy. Pushpaka Vimana, though, seems more like a Saurav Ganguly’s sixer – it looks classy, but isn’t.

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We’ve seen quite a few father-daughter, father-son relationships on the big screen in the recent past. The story of Pushpaka Vimana is quite Unlike any other story we’ve seen on the big-screen. Apparently, the movie is a remake of a South Korean movie and the director even acknowledges it, indirectly, by citing the original’s director Lee Hwan-Kyung as an inspiration.
The story of Pushpaka Vimana doesn’t concentrate on any one lead character’s feelings towards the other (Prakash Rai’s Naanu Nanna Kanasu, Surya’s Vaaranam Aayiram in Tamil). It isn’t a journey of realization or self-discovery (Godhi Banna…) The story values their mere existence as people and their dream of flying (or at least to buy a scale model of an aeroplane). The celebration of the father-daughter duo is magnificently captured by the slow-moving sweeping shots used in abundance. The movie has some beautiful scenes with attention paid to intricacies of such a beautiful relationship.

But, it doesn’t work. The movie is unnecessarily long and could have been cut down by at least 40 minutes. Editing is the third weakest part of this movie. Second weakest part is the story itself. A differently asked father is hell bent on gifting a scale model of an aeroplane to his daughter. They mean the world to each other. When this dream of his places him in a place and situation he shouldn’t be in, he’s accused of sexual abuse and murder of a child. I wonder if the sexual abuse part of the child could have been avoided. But, a story is a story and it’s the way it is. In jail, the father is abused physically but he miraculously doesn’t break given his pure heart.

A “life-saving” situation helps him befriend his inmate and former abuser who now feels sorry for the father who’s yearning to see his child. He becomes a wormhole for the father-daughter duo who get to see each other in the jail. All goes well till the jailor finds out that a girl child resides in his jail. Another “life-saving” situation melts the strict jailor down who feels guilty of separating the two innocent people. Somewhere you start feeling that saving someone’s life is the only way to prove to the baddies that you’re a nice person.

The story is fine till here, if not great. Beyond this point, there are failed escape plans, turns and twists written specifically to take the story to a logical end. A police commissioner who believes his daughter was abused and murdered by our protagonist, a corrupt defense lawyer and some typical blackmails ensure that the story reaches a logical end. And what’s that? A hastily executed death sentence! And that’s when we realize, in that last five minutes of the movie, that the daughter is not fighting the case to fetch the release of her father, but to clear his name off the crime records because he was a good father and because he wasn’t capable of committing the crime. That’s her evidence in the court of law!

Debutante director S. Ravindranath seems confused as if he doesn’t know who his audience is going to be. If he isn’t confused, he surely is being greedy in trying to cater to as wide an audience as possible. That’s one of the biggest flaws of the movie. This intent screws up the screenplay in a big way by introducing extremely long sentimental scenes add zero value to the story. The continuous use of sexual overtones in the form of innuendos and some explicit dialogues bring down the levels of comfort one would have when watching a family movie with family. The script didn’t actually require all that. Those scenes just don’t fit in there.

The performances aren’t top-notch either! Rachita Ram is just not present in the scenes. Juhi Chawla is there only for a horribly placed song! It’d have been beautiful if she was shown as the dead mother of the girl. Most of the side-kicks are okay-ish. Ravi Kale, as the jailor, is good-enough but a Rangayana Raghu or a Doddanna could also have fit the bill. Ramesh Aravind tries his best to be Kamal Hassan, but falters. I’m not very happy with his interpretation of the character. Even I can perform that role and make up that stupid-sounding voice modulation with a week’s practice. I think, a mature director like Sunil Kumar Desai or Dinesh Babu could’ve drawn the right emotions out of our hero!

The one person that stands out among the actors is Yuvina Parthavi. The kid’s just too cute, has a beautiful smile, is very lively and lights up the screen with her presence and expressions. She handles the tougher sentimental scenes with equal ease. She’s the best and only memory you can take away from the movie.

I would forgive all these flaws, if the movie could inspired me in the slightest way, even in a subtle manner. Unfortunately, subtlety is something the director doesn’t understand. Emotions are explicit in the form of loud and teary crying and moaning, fun is explicit in the form of sleaze. The audience is fed the whole meal, they don’t get to think, they are not given the opportunity to look inside their own and discover something. So you won’t even relate to their emotions. Most people will still cry when watching the film. And most will laugh their heart-out. Very few will actually feel any more affectionate towards their father or their daughter.

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Save this one for a television viewing on a rainy day. The ad-breaks will help you. It’s just not worth the multiplex ticket! Meanwhile, if you have nothing to do, go on YouTube and search for the other Pushpaka Vimana – the 1987 classic starring Kamal Hassan. For decades to come, when the words “Pushpaka Vimana” fall on your ears, you’ll still remember that movie and not Ramesh Aravind’s 100th movie. Sorry Ramesh Aravind, Amruthvarshini is still your last masterpiece.

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