Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sanitising Police

In the 90s, the Perpendicular movement had received a major boost with the release of Gunda, and generally with much of what Mithun Chakraborthy was attempting post, and including, Dalaal. However, the true signs of this becoming a widespread revolt against popular and avant garde culture could only be noticed when Police Story became one of the few Kannada films to be ever dubbed into Hindi. It was called Agni IPS in Hindi. Strangely, Agni IPS was to be the name of SaiK's next film in Kannada. Come to think of it, there has been none before or after these films that deserved the said respect and the Perpi movement kind of carried on from there never to look back.
Agni IPS (Kannada) is to the arrogant, non-Perpi cinema establishment what Dilip Kumar gave to Dr. Dang in Karma. This thappad's goonj could be heard across seven seas and cod liver oils. Sai Kumar is a Telugu actor who had been dubbing for people whose voice might not have been manly enough. You know, what the Telugu film industry achieves with decibels, pelvic thrusts and talcum powder is amazing. But that is for another post. So SaiK assimilated into the Kannada film industry just with the sheer ferocity of his voice. He was the first sound-to-box-office-success transducer ever seen this side of the mined hills.
The story begins with Rockline Venkatesh playing Basha Khan and getting walloped in public by, among others, an old man appearing to sell plastic toys. It doesn't take long to realise that had he not wanted to be another Dilip Kumar and slapped the menacing Kotwal, Basha Khan might have lived longer than the first 20 mins of the movie. He pays for this act of TK and gets stabbed all over the place. Kotwal and his men, for their part, display utter lack of professionalism and leave him with enough energy to make an SOS for Agni, his fellow policeman. Unfortunately, he is in the middle of a song called, well... "Polees". Before he reaches the hospital, Basha Khan has subjected the other policemen and his mother (played by Umashree) to his insufferable verbal spamming.
The film actually begins here, first as a practical act of community cleansing and then as a audio dictionary of the happening Kannada cuss words. Because of one of these factors, this film comes with a U certificate. Agni is rather cheesed off when he goes to his new police station and finds the cupboard with a simple placard which says: "you fool, no file". The brevity of the message is lost on him as also is his cool lost on the sub-ordinates.
"P for Punctual, O for Obedient, L for Loyalty, I for Integrity, C for Courage, E for Efficiency has now become P for Politics, O for Offence, L for Loafers, I for Inefficiency, C for Criminals and E for Enemies." The state of our State is not in good hands, he knows. As he says, to our relief however, "ee agni onti aadru, lion-hearted, lion-hearted, lion-hearted". Meaning: "even if he is alone, he is lion-hearted". Just to prove his point, he kills four rowdies.
To me, the best moment of the film is when he visits Kotwal, a tour de force from either actor, in this piece de resistance of a moment. This happens so early in the film that it resembles Gunda where the hero and the villain meet very early on and play a mental chess game. You do realise that one of them could easily be killed by the other, but that's cover, beside the point. Anyway, as Kotwal puts forward his proposals in an effort to symbolically disrobe the police of it's khaki, SaiK just tells him: "Ye Kotwal, Love day ke ball" (Hey Kotwal! You spherical bouncing object from Valentine's Day), I'll bring you to your downfall in 3 months.
3 months is just enough time for him to romance a shutter-happy Ranjitha, who as if foreshadowing few events that might happen a decade and more later, takes clandestine pictures of Agni bashing up rowdies. At this point, there is a song, which starts rather abruptly, as if foreshadowing how this article is going to end.

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