S Shyam Prasad
The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays the freight both ways. John F. Kennedy’s timeless words about American farmers find a poignant echo in the present-day Indian agricultural landscape. But how does one transform this compelling truth into an engaging commercial film? A debutant director, devoid of any prior filmmaking experience, has achieved the seemingly impossible feat.
At its core, the narrative appears deceptively simple – a farmer’s son relinquishes his engineering pursuits to embrace his agrarian heritage. However, what he doesn’t anticipate is his confrontation with the entire systemic edifice. While similar storylines have graced the silver screen before, what distinguishes Kshetrapati is its unwavering commitment to realism. The storyline eschews the clichéd elements of romance, comedy, and superfluous songs. Even the abundant action sequences are judiciously restrained. The protagonist’s vulnerability remains a constant thread, endearing him to the audience through even the most modest acts of rebellion.
Amidst the contemporary challenges plaguing the average farmer, simple solutions are elusive. The film delves into a comprehensive exploration of each concern, be it contract farming, minimum support prices, the dwindling agricultural contribution to the economy, or the waning influence of rural communities. Yet, this discourse is masterfully woven into the characters’ struggles, avoiding any hint of preachiness. The journey to find a way out mirrors reality’s complexity, acknowledging the absence of facile answers.
The director meticulously maintains a cinematic narrative, albeit with a few scenes that linger excessively and risk appearing didactic. However, scattered among these are moments of cinematic brilliance, poised to linger in memory. The dialogues, infused with the authentic Kannada dialect of Gadag, are a highlight deserving of celebration, eloquently delivered by the key characters.
The casting aligns flawlessly, with each character seamlessly fitting into the intricate mosaic. Naveen Shankar, a proven actor, eclipses his previous performances in his role within “Kshetrapati.” In a role that might be modest in screen time but substantial in impact, Archana Jois enchants with her portrayal.
“Kshetrapati” stands as a candid offering, steadfastly dedicated to its mission, delivering precisely what it pledges – an unapologetic exploration of the agricultural crisis. It serves as a mirror to reality, holding an unyielding spotlight to the challenges and tribulations of the farming community, all the while maintaining the allure of a captivating cinematic journey.
Film: Kshetrapati Director: Shrikant Katagi Cast: Naveen Shankar, Archana Jois, Achyuth Kumar, Rahul Ainapur, Harsha Arjun, Krishna Hebbale Duration: 157 minutes Certificate: UA