When the “pitch trailer” of Gultoo first appeared on YouTube, me and my friends on Twitter had some discussion about the nature of the crime and the overall subject shown in the movie. The dialogue “ee tharaanu ondu crime ideya?” (Does a crime like this exist?) made me scratch my head. Two years later, today, I got to watch this movie and I can say that my curiosity has finally got its answer.

Gultoo is one more movie, we Kannada people can be proud of and can show to our non-Kannadiga friends (yes, it has subtitles). At the center of the movie is a project by name “sudhaar” which resembles Government of India’s “aadhaar” project. In my limited knowledge, I did not find any other Indian movie that has covered this topic. I can suggest many things that could have been done by the director, but I also understand that he had the gigantic task of conveying the movie to the general audience.

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The movie starts in an engineering college and what is refreshing is that the movie doesn’t get stuck there. The screenplay is a bit of flashback and merges in between with the present. It is hard to notice where and how it merges. The first few minutes are a mixture of tensed moments and humorous t(s)exts. Janardhan Chikkanna has balanced the movie in such a way that the life struggles of the hero and the police torture are not given in overdose. All through the movie, the secret unfolds till the climax. And by the time of climax, so many events are effortlessly shown one after the other. I found just one aspect unconvincing and that is about the Delhi investigating officer’s method of extracting information. But then, never mind, I can forgive this!

The 4-5 main characters have been written well. Of all the characters, I loved the hero’s character. He is an underprivileged “scholarship” student. He is an introvert, speaks less, but is clever than the rest. Naveen Shankar has acted well from being a helpless chap to the person at the “helm of information”. Naveen has that special charm and is a talent to look for. Sonu Gowda has played the character that tries to impress the hero and the way she does that is brilliant. She shows the feelings of being in awe of the hero, melts within, gives space and still tries hard to impress the hero. Avinash’s character is also created well, but I cannot give out the details. The other small characters are also created well.

I liked the way in which the songs are weaved into the script and all the songs just appear in the background and fade quickly. Do check the complete album, all the songs are good. “Kadalaache” is my pick. VFX is refreshing. I loved the emojis while they show the texts. The computer hacking could have been shown in a realistic way, but then the general audience wouldn’t understand.

For me, more than the crime, the climax speech the hero delivers at a startup conference is the best part of the movie. His speech has the famous words of Steve Jobs – “stay hungry, stay foolish”. The hero adds his own philosophy about life and justifies his acts in an unfair world. Those words “I am not a hero for anybody. I am a hero for myself”. The hero’s character sure has his own parallel world where he lives the way he desires.  I loved the way Naveen Shankar says these words with a clever and “omniscient” smile. Observe his eyes in that scene. The way the hero receives funding for his startup reminded me of the way in which Leonardo Di Caprio gets entry back to his country in the movie Inception.

Full marks to the director for introducing us to so many things in one single movie. The deep web and its trade; the citizens’ database from the government; the corrupt system and black money – connecting all these things so well in this story was surely a tough job. The hero’s counter plan, safety nets and the way he “logs out” of the complex web is sure to blow your mind.

This is the best way the issues of surveillance, data theft and privacy issues could be shown without complicating further. This is a movie we can be proud of. Such movies happen once in a while and deserve to be watched by the citizens in the times when we are hearing disturbing stories about Cambridge Analytica and Aadhaar data leaks.

Rating: ★★★★

Reviewed by: Gagan Krishnadas

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