The title of Baanadariyalli (On the Path to the Sky), starring Ganesh and directed by Preetham Gubbi, is derived from the famous song ‘Baana Daariyalli Surya Jaari Hoda’ sung by Puneeth Rajkumar, who also featured as a child artiste in the 1981 Kannada film Bhagyavantha. The late Kannada superstar had confessed that it was his favourite song among the ones sung by him.
The film begins with Rangayana Raghu’s character putting his little daughter Leela to sleep by singing this song as a lullaby. Leela (Rukmini Vasanth) grows up being fascinated by animals and caring for the environment. Her father is everything to her, but their close-knit bond gets disrupted when Siddharth, fondly called Siddu (Ganesh), falls in love with Leela.
The premise of Baandariyalli is interesting; it is about the great lengths people go to fulfill the dreams of their loved ones (as seen in 777 Charlie, Amrithadhare). It is also a story of love, acceptance and self-realisation.
Director: Preetham Gubbi
Cast: Ganesh, Rukmini Vasanth, Reeshma Nanaiah, Rangayana Raghu
Runtime: 149 minutes
Storyline: Leela, a swimmer and Siddharth, a cricketer, fall in love; when tragedy strikes, it’s all about helping your loved ones fulfil their dreams
That said, the film is a missed opportunity as Gubbi makes a mess of the source material (the story is from Preetha Jayaraman, the cinematographer of Fahadh Faasil’s Dhoomam). He fails to deliver a feel-good romanctic movie laced with adventure and emotional undertones. Gubbi’s poor writing results in a tedious drama on screen, and he doesn’t hit the high notes as a director, thus failing to do justice to the film’s tagline of “This is not a love story. This is a story about love.”
Early on, the chemistry between Ganesh and Rukmini appears strange. The former gets to do all the talking even as we wonder why Rukmini’s character is interested in such a person, and the love story between the lead characters blossoms through frivolous developments. Rukmini, essaying a champion swimmer, is wasted in a half-baked character, but at least the actor looks the part. You can’t tell the same thing about Ganesh. He plays a cricketer struggling to get into the State team.
‘Show, don’t tell’, the golden narrative-technique of filmmaking, is missing in Baandariyalli. The characters repeatedly keep saying how much they love each other without getting to do anything remarkable to enhance their expressions. In one scene, Ganesh delivers the right amount of intensity when he tries to convince Leela’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, but it’s a shame that the director doesn’t celebrate his hero with many such moments. Even worse is when Gubbi doesn’t fully flesh out the scenes significant to the love story.
The film also tries its hand at adventure when the drama shifts to Masai Mara in southwestern Kenya. The National Reserve is a photographer’s paradise, so we get exactly that; a montage of lions, cheetahs, and zebras in the wild and rugged landscapes, shot by cinematographer Abhilash Kalathi. Gubbi doesn’t use the change of location as a narrative tool to strengthen the film’s plot. It’s as if he knew the climax but wasn’t sure how to get there! So we get silly scenes featuring Ganesh, Rangayana Raghu and Reeshma Nanaiah, who essays a caricaturish influencer.
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You feel a sense of deja vu watching Ganesh’s heavy-duty emotional scenes. The dialogue writer Maasthi Upparahalli’s wordplay caters more to the gallery than being closer to reality. Even Rangayana Raghu, an ever-reliable actor, is surprisingly off-colour here with an over-dramatic portrayal of a heartbroken father.
Gubbi, after a promising start as a writer-director in the Kannada film industry, has fallen off the radar by failing to change with the times. And, despite being a fine actor, Ganesh hasn’t been ambitious enough to propel his career to the next level. What happens when the two collaborate with no intention of reinvention? Your guess is as good as mine.
Baanadariyalli is currently running in theatres