Amma, Appa, I want to catch butterflies, fly kites, play with friends, climb trees, swim, get drenched in the rain. But you never allowed me to do all of this. Whether it’s school or home, it is always about studies. Am I living only to study? Can’t I do what I like? I am sorry, Amma, Appa. I will not come home.’
These lines, written by a character named Rajat in his Chemistry exam paper, summarises the conflict between a child’s dreams and the reality of the education system in our country. Building on this core theme, director Kaviraj, who takes a cue from a real-life incident, highlights a few burning issues with Kalidasa Kannada Mestru -- the closure of Kannada schools in favour of English-medium schools, the importance of one’s mother tongue, and people’s obsession with English.
The satirical film brings to the fore the dilemma that exists in a small family’s everyday life, such as parents’ struggle for admission, children torn between school classes and tuition, pressure to be the topper in class, and the conflict between a child’s dreams and parents’ aspirations, reality and beliefs, family obligations and society’s expectations, and Kannada medium and English medium schools.
The story revolves around Kalidasa (Jaggesh), a teacher in a Kannada medium school. The register book reflects that the number of students is reducing by the day, with parents enrolling their children in English medium schools. When Kalidasa tries to persuade them, they ask him whether he will set an example by enrolling his son in a Kananda medium school. But Kalidasa’s wife, Suma (Meghana Gaonkar) wants her son to study in the best English medium school in the city.
Kalidasa has no choice but to go by his wife’s wish. So much so that he manages to gather Rs 7 lakh for the admission. While Suma is over the moon, Kalidasa lands at the police station.While the first half entertains with its comical surprises, the second half takes a serious tone.
Major twists come when Kalidasa’s life goes haywire. That leads him to start a protest, demanding a change in the education system, for which he gets public support. Questions like whether his voice will reach the government, and if this dilemma can be answered mirror the current education scenario in the country.
Kaviraj’s vision grasps one of the current burning issues. He touches upon other important topics as well, but keeps the core issue alive. Kaviraj, who has been a lyricist for years, has also written this story, and expresses simple thoughts with profoundness. The one-liners keep the audience in splits. However, the episode that talks about media attention has become almost a routine scene in more or less every film, and looks cliched.
Casting Jaggesh as Kalidasa was a judicious decision. The actor is known for his unique comedy act and he has given an all-round performance, with his comic act intact. The character allows the actor to be himself -- Jaggesh, a pro-Kannada person, who is vocal about issues.
Meghana Gaonkar has a responsible role to play and she goes by the director’s instructions. The rest of the characters, including senior actors, make their presence felt.
Music director Gurukiran had to come out of his regular formula of compositions, which works to a certain extent.
Kalidasa Kannada Mestru ends with a thought -- educate children, but do not punish them. It is a well-timed film and will come in handy for parents who are preparing their children for exams. This is a topic that needs attention from the entire family.
Cast: Jaggesh and Meghana Gaonkar