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Kshetrapathi review: Serious, idealistic story in a mixed package

Kshetrapathi2023★★★☆☆3/5Director:Srikant KatagiCast:Naveen Shankar, Archana Jois and Achyuth Kumar

As a tribute to the late actor Puneeth Rajkumar scrolled down the screen amid loud cheers, I didn’t expect ‘Kshetrapathi’ to have anything more to do to him.

However, as the film progressed, one could not but draw parallels with Puneeth’s ‘Prithvi’ (2010), a critically acclaimed film steeped in idealism but unable to rise above commercial compulsions.

Depicting the plight of farmers, the film opens with the protagonist Basava’s (Naveen Shankar) father dying by suicide in a remote village of Gadag because of rising debts.

This coincides with a local politician (Veerabhadra) plotting to hand over the villagers’ land to an MNC, using the money they owe him as leverage. This compels the college-going Basava, visiting the village for his father’s last rites, to stay back. He is determined to save his land.

His zeal soon spreads to other farmers and he is supported by a newspaper editor (Achyuth Kumar) and a TV anchor Bhoomika (Archana Jois).

The corrupt system comes down heavily on Basava, and he grapples with his adversaries, with all odds stacked against him.

Srikant Katagi deserves praise for tackling a serious and topical issue in his directorial debut. The film is fresh, with a strong north Karnataka flavour, rare in mainstream Kannada cinema. It shines at crucial moments thanks to the direction and the background score by Ravi Basrur.

However, just like Prithvi, after having crossed the halfway mark through a road less travelled, the film drifts to cater to commercial expectations, and comes across as too long and preachy.

Naveen Shankar impresses as a combative hero. Achyuth and Archana deftly play their limited roles. Rahul Ainapur leaves a mark as a rugged villain.

(Published 19 August 2023, 04:04 IST)

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