Chronicles of Hari Review: Jio MAMI 2016

Mainstream Kannada film industry or Sandalwood films are usually about the roaring hero and the helpless heroine, with a twisted plot. Ananya Kasaravalli’s debut feature film though breaks the stereotype, and brings us a story even Bollywood has not attempted so far. We may have our share of gay and lesbian stories (mostly not the most impressive examples), but the transgender community is grossly underrepresented in Indian cinema. This has not helped change their portrayal in society either. For every film-loving Indian, Chronicles of Hari (Harikatha Prasanga) is the movie to watch. 

The movie begins with a peek into the life of Yakshagana performers. Filmmakers Sharmila and Sundar investigate into the life and suicide of popular dancer Hari (Shrunga Vasudevan), and interview his former troupe for details. For those who do not know, Yakshagana is a traditional theater form in Karnataka, which combines dance, music, dialogue, and other stage techniques in a unique style and form. Visually similar to Kathakali, it has male performers in female roles. 

One such performer is Hari, who is only offered female roles because of his good looks and soft skin. A star in his own troupe, Hari performs all night as a woman and transforms back into his male form during the day. Such was his life, until an identity crisis makes him leave the troupe. He begins to question whether he is a man pretending to be a woman, or a woman playing the role of a man. 

Chronicles of Hari still - BookMyShow

Hari’s transformation is slow, yet steady. Gradually, he begins to wear skirts with man shirts during the day, leading to his neighbors mocking him and inviting his brother's wrath. His ‘weirdness’ makes him lose out on potential brides, and his family’s reputation begins to suffer. When his brother cannot find himself a wife, Hari is finally kicked out of the house. Thereafter, Hari’s transformation to what he believes is his true self is not easy. It is also the reason for his depression, which is portrayed effectively by Vasudevan. His journey from leaving his home to his death is laden with difficulties. While he is accepted by another Yakshagana performer, he and his partner are shunned by society. 

What we see on screen is not surprising, given the society’s reaction to transgenders, and yet it touches the heart. Hari’s story is morbid, and his decision to take his life is met with more anger than sadness, given the state of affairs that still exist even in urban Indian society. The film does have some moments of confusion, as the behavior of certain characters do not make much sense. Vasudevan is the sole star of the film, and all eyes are on him from the beginning to end. Beauty is embedded in his role, along with the picturesque shots of rural Karnataka. Even the music blends well with the simple and melancholic story. For her first attempt, Ananya Kasaravalli does a great job with the film. Let’s hope we get to see more such marvels like these in Sandalwood. 

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