When debutant Satish Pradhan approached Pooja Gandhi to play the lead role in his ambitious project, Abhinetri: The Tragedy of a Legend, based on the life of yesteryear actress Kalpana, he didn’t realise that it would rake up so much controversy. With family members of those associated with Kalpana registering their dissatisfaction as well as a novelist claiming the story as her own, it is no mean feat that the film has finally seen light of day.
The film which revisits the life of Kalpana, is true to the facts and describes a heroine’s struggle in a male-dominated industry. In it, Abhinetri Lata (Pooja Gandhi) is a small-town girl who is fuelled by ambitions of becoming an actress. Her desires and talent are understood by the character played by Achyuth Kumar who helps her meet Krishnamurthy (Makrand Deshpande), a famous actor, who introduces her to tinsel town as Nanda. In spite of initial detractors, Nanda rises up to become the most sought-after actress.
Post interval, her story takes a turn for the worse and charts her fall from grace. She ends up getting back to being an actor at a drama company owned by Bettagere Gangaraju (Ravi Shankar) and a series of incidents transpire to end her story in tragedy.
Weaving a real story on reel, Satish sets the film in the 1970s and 80s and manages to create a vintage South Indian look in both screen and drama of the period.
While a personal narrative always needs sensitive handling, Satish has managed to do so effectively, revealing the trials and tribulations of Kalpana’s life and her connections with actors and directors like BR Panthulu, Narasimha Raju, Puttanna Kanagal and Gudigeri Basavaraj, Jayanthi and Aarthi.
Unfortunately, the director fails to take the story far enough to create an impact and the tragedy of the actress fails to generate any feelings from the viewer’s end.
The film becomes monotonous after a while even though the director and the actors especially Pooja Gandhi put in a lot of hard work in trying to recreate Kalpana’s life and her cinema. Pooja has followed the director’s lead, justifying her role completely. Unfortunately, veteran actors like Atul Kulkarnai, Makrand Deshpande have not been utilised well. There are blink-and-miss roles by Neettoo, Ramya Barna and Radhika Gandhi. Ravi Shankar as Gangaraju plays his part well.
The music by Mano Murthy is average and the cinematography is nothing to write home about. Watch Abhinetri if you are curious about the life and times of a yesteryear actress.