On social media and red carpets from Boston to Dhaka, and now Goa, team Dollu (2021) is having an ‘upbeat’ mainstream moment. The Kannada movie (Dollu), which has received rave reviews, is one of the most ‘talked-about’ films at the 52nd IFFI in Goa. The film sensitively portrays the story of Dollu Kunitha, a vanishing folk dance from Karnataka.
Asserting that urbanisation is a global issue, actor-turned director Sagar Puranik says that over the years, there has been a steady stream of migration from rural areas to big cities as people want to improve their standard of living. "There is nothing wrong with it, but we should make sure that we do not forget our roots. Through the film, we wanted to give the message that art has no rules and it is not defined by the constructs of society," he says.
It is among the nine feature films that are vying for honours in the 'Debut Competition' section at the IFFI. With stunning visuals and heart-thumping music, the drum circle movie magnificently juxtaposes the effects of urbanisation on the indigenous folk-art forms in India. "Traditional art forms need to stay. In the quest for a better life, we are forgetting our traditions and roots. Through Dollu, we wanted to convey how urbanisation has affected indigenous folk-art forms," says Puranik.
The protagonist Bhadra leads a team of Dollu drummer-dancers. As money takes precedence over passion, the team leaves their village and lands in Bengaluru, an unforgiving metropolitan city. It is then that Bhadra realises that their village temple’s annual rituals would remain incomplete without the team’s drumming performance. To keep the centuries-old tradition alive, he decides to reunite the team. The hardships he faced in his mission form the crux of the movie.
For those, who’ve missed the bus, Dollu recently won the Dadasaheb Phalke Award 2021 (MSK Trust) for Best Kannada Film at the Innovative International Film Festival. Its first public screening was in the USA at the Caleidoscope Indian Film Festival Boston.
It is de rigueur for bands, especially drummers to sport long hair and go on a roll, but the characters in Dollu are real. There are moments when the onscreen drumming and off-screen hysteria reaches a crescendo in the darkness of the auditorium. The ensemble of dark, athletic drummers and their sweaty bodies, literally casts a spell on you. An elated Puranik spills the beans, "It was a real challenge. We trained professional drum-dancers to act and professional actors to dance. It was excruciating for them, but the results are there for everyone to see." Puranik is a National award-winning actor, who predominantly works in the southern film and television industry. Unlike the superficial tinpot drummers of tinsel town, Dollu’s drummers leave with bang, not whimper!