Kurukshetra Movie Review: Darshan shines in this seamless retelling of Mahabharata
Director Naganna and writer JK Bharavi have ensured that the narration is simple enough for even those unfamiliar with the epic to understand the story
Though once a popular genre, mainly from the 60s to the 80s, tales from the Mahabharata have all but disappeared from our screens over the past decade. Darshan-starrer Kurukshetra now brings back those memories of sitting in front of the television to catch the latest episode of one of the country’s oldest stories. The only difference — the scale has been ramped up a thousand times.
Producer Munirathna has moved the Mahabharata out of pint-sized weekly instalments to the big screen, focusing on one of the epic’s most definitive battles — the one fought at Kurukshetra. The film differs in one major way from the tales of yore, however, as it shows the battle from Duryodhana’s point of view. The character is portrayed by Darshan in his landmark 50th outing. With 3D technology, the war is played out as a feature-length costume drama, and the spectacular visual effects make for quite an experience.
The song, Saahore saaho, sets the scene for the movie, which starts straight-away with the introduction of Darshan as Duryodhana, explaining the beginning of his deep friendship with Karna. It then talks about the conflict between Kauravas and Pandavas, which leads to the rigged gambling scene dominated by Shakuni (Ravi Shankar), as well as Draupadi's (Sneha) humiliation and the divine intervention of Lord Krishna (Ravichandran). An exile later, Pandavas clash with the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war.
Most of the tales of the ensuing battle are well known — the entry of Krishna into the war ground, his offer to help the Pandavas and the historical climax, as Duryodhana and Bheema face one another. The story is told in stunning visual style. At three hours, Kurukshetra also holds the distinction of being one of the longest films to be made in the Kannada film industry, perhaps necessary considering the extent of the tale of Mahabharata narrated. The first half of the movie is heavy on dialogues, while the war sequences take up most of the second half.
Director Naganna and writer JK Bharavi have gone by the book and narrated the story using an extract of the poem, Gadhayuddha by Ranna. The narration is simple enough for even those unfamiliar with the epic to understand the story. Naganna also deserves credit for directing this epic with such a massive star cast. Dialogues by Nagendra Prasad, which balance colloquial lines with complicated verses, are finely executed. The art department has delivered too under art director Kiran Kumar Manne.
The visual effects team led by Durgaprasad Ketha and Jeemon Pullelly Varghese deserve special mention for making Kurukshetra the 3D marvel that it is. Harikrishna's songs blend well into the film, while his background score, and the cinematography by Jayanan Vincent, lift the movie to new levels.
Late Ambareesh plays the role of the eternal advisor Bheeshma, while Ravichandran takes on the role of Krishna, the game-changer, Sonu Sood as Arjuna, and Nikhil Kumar as Abhimanyu. Danish Akhtar Saifi as Bheema faces Darshan for the final fight. Ravi Shankar as Shakuni shines while he explains the various line of thoughts that are a part of this complex epic. Other cast members include Srinivas Murthy as Dronacharya, Srinath as Dhritarashtra, Sashikumar as Yudhishthira, Yashas Surya and Chandan as Nakula-Sahadeva, Sneha as Draupadi, Meghana Raj as Bhanumati, Harirpirrya as Maye, and Chetan as Dushasana.
Darshan, playing the difficult-to-like role of Duryodhana, proves he is up to the challenge. Between his pumped-up physical appearance, body language, expressions, and costumes, it is clear that a lot of work has gone into his effective portrayal of the role. Darshan carries the character majestically. Arjun Sarja's performance as Karna is another highlight of the movie.
An ambitious project by Munirathna, featuring one of Darshan’s most challenging roles, Kurukshetra is an honest attempt that showcases ancient mythology using cutting-edge modern technology.