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Panchatantram Review: The five senses get a cinematic expression


Panchatantram directed by young director Harsha Pulipaka is about life and story-telling pegging on the five senses – five stories – not all of them work, but the last two stories seal the deal for this film

Text by Rajeshwari Kalyanam

Panchatantram – the age-old book of stories gives life lessons. Harsha Pulipaka’s new film ‘Panchatantram’ is also about life and story-telling. Pegging on the five senses – Harsha tells five stories that are narrated by a retired old man as a part of story writing competition. While his daughter (Swathi) keeps reminding him that its his age for resting and perhaps pursuing spiritual interests – he goes ahead and participates in the competition moving closer to the finale with each narration. Played by the legendary Brahmanandam, Veda Vyas, the narrator takes us along the stories.

The first story is about a software employee Vihari (Naresh Agastya) bogged down by routine and stress, and suddenly he realizes that he has never been to a beach. An experience as simple as that feels much more important when he hears people around him narrating their first-time experiences of being at a beach listening to the sounds of the waves.

The second story is about a man looking out for a girl to marry, and his condition is that the girl should have an identity and know what she wants. And, when he finally meets the girl – the conversation veers towards food, and the memories. It’s how they bond over the sense of taste that forms the rest of the story. The endearing pair is Rahul Vijay and Shivathmika, who fit their parts that will leave you wanting for more.

The third story is about a retired bank employee, who suddenly begins to smell something strange around him. What it is and how that smell stayed with him, and the whole mystery around it is what the story is about.

While the first story in the Panchatantram anthology has its moments, and relies heavily on the experience, it falters in the craft of storytelling. Perhaps what’s missing is the conflict, which is more or less the case with the second story on ‘Taste’ as well. Senior actor Samuthirakani carries the entire weight of the third story on smell. The last two stories however seal the deal and you will leave the theatre with a few poignant thoughts in your head.

Story on touch is weaved around the simple husband and wife who are expecting a baby. Divya Sripada and Vikas have given an edge to this tear-jerking story with their sensitive performances, and act aptly followed by the next story – on the sense of sight, which is also vivid in one’s imagination. It is the story about this entrepreneur cum children’s story teller Chitra, who creates a female super hero Leia an extremely popular show amongst kids. She meets Roopa one of her fans – how it turns out to be life changing is the rest of the story. The story has Swathi and Adarsh Balakrishnan in main roles, and it tugs at heart at many levels.

Interestingly Veda Vyas”s daughter who comes to listen to her father imagines herself in the story, and it changes her perspective towards her father.

Plus: The director-writer has his heart in the right place. There are several nuances, moments and scenes that quietly touch your heart. Here is a director who is sensitive and knows to cast the right people for the right roles, and gets them to deliver on their performances. Three cheers to the producers Akhilesh Vardhan and Srujan for supporting the project. Dialogues and background score too need to be applauded for keeping the audiences hooked to the narrative and lending the vibe for each story.

Minus: Panchatantram seems to have missed on cinematic translation of a few feelings, which otherwise would have elevated this beautiful film.

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