P Sheshadri is a director who has mastered the art of filmmaking. December 1 has won him his eighth National film and aptly sends across a message that a good film will not go unrecognised. Crisp and witty dialogues, great performances, a pithy screenplay, edgy camerawork...nothing has gone wrong with the film, which is about a family of a struggling husband, an enterprising wife, their two children and a grandmother.
The story is set in a village Basapura where Madevappa (Santosh Uppina) and his wife Devakka (Niveditha) reside. Madevappa works in a flour mill after having met with an accident while driving a truck. Devakka is quite popular for her home-made rotis, which she sells in and around her village. Despite their struggle to meet ends, they try and live happily.
The twist comes when the Chief-Minister of the state decides to visit their house on December 1 and stay overnight. All attention is on the family and the couple is bombarded with requests from villagers that they want passed on to the CM.
The couple’s house is spruced up and the village gets all the necessary facilities including water, electricity and a toilet. The day arrives and the CM is welcomed with great enthusiasm. He stays at Madevappa’s house and has dinner, insisting on having rotis made by Devakka. All this is covered by the media. The family is overjoyed with the series of activities but they hardly get time to interact with the CM. And to their shock, the entire family is asked to stay outside their own house that night because of their health issues.
Why the CM chose to visit Madevappa and family and still kept them out of their own house and will the CM’s visit actually change the family’s fortunes or drive them into deeper distress is conveyed in the film.
Director Sheshadri has tried to showcase society and its issues through various circumstances. The village backdrop is another important element in the film.
The cast is uniformally excellent and Sheshadri has pushed his actors in his quest to attain perfection. Niveditha gives a terrific performance and so does Santosh Uppina. If it was not for Devakka, who is popular for her rotis, this story with a political backdrop would not have existed nor would it have impacted the viewers so deeply. The film’s location is parched land and is captured clearly. The visuals of Devakka going up and down the village holding her child and the roti basket have visual and emotional appeal.
Special mention has to be made of Shanthabai Joshi, who has thoroughly justified the grandmother’s role. Ashok Raman’s cinematography is memorable. The script has great impact and the screenplay stands out. Dialogues by Chandrashekar Vastrada are splendid and the music by V Manohar goes well with the story.
Verdict: Despite being an artistic film, December 1 has great potential to do well commercially.
Film: December 1 (Kannada)
Director: P Sheshadri
Cast: Niveditha, Santosh Uppina