'Darbar' movie review: A political satire that sheds light on the complexities of rural politics

Although primarily targeting rural audiences, the message conveyed in Darbar holds true even for metropolitan cities during elections.

Published: 10th June 2023 08:33 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th June 2023 08:33 AM   |  A+A-

A still from the movie.

A still from the movie.

Express News Service

Veteran composer, V Manohar makes a comeback as a director after a hiatus of more than two decades with his film, Darbar. With an impressive track record of composing music for 230 films, Manohar’s directorial debut, O Mallige (1997), was a delightful romantic tale that enjoyed immense success at the box office. His second venture, Indradhanush (2000), leaned towards commercial entertainment. Now, after a span of 23 years, he steps behind the camera once again to deliver a political satire. Can this veteran composer and director captivate the audience’s attention as he did with his first film? Let’s find out.

Darbar revolves around Madhuchandra, or Madhu (played by Satish), who holds an influential position in the village. Born into a privileged family, Madhu commands respect and strives to instill discipline among the unruly youth in his community, and among the villagers. He strongly opposes gambling and excessive drinking, especially among the youth.

During a village fair, Madhu’s path crosses with Deepa (Jahnavi), and their love story blossoms. However, some jealous and envious villagers hatch a devious plan to humiliate Madhu. They manipulate him into contesting for the village Gram Panchayat, intending to defeat him with the insignificant and wayward Naga ( Huli Karthik), known for his involvement in illegal activities. With the help of village miscreants, Naga manages to secure a seat in the village panchayat. The fate of Naga and Madhu becomes the central focus of Darbar.

The director’s intention is to deliver a powerful message to society, highlighting the striking parallels between elections for the village panchayat and state assembly. The film successfully depicts how candidates resort to bribery, crafty schemes, false sympathy, and even pledging on deities to secure votes. A thought-provoking song about elections, sung by filmmaker and singer Upendra, sheds light on the prevalent corruption among elected representatives in rural areas. It serves as an eye-opener for the audience. While the film manages to capture the unfiltered essence of village life, it falls short in terms of its execution, with V Manohar harkening back to the style of older films.

Satish with his well-built physique, has made a valiant effort to deliver his best as the protagonist in Darbar.  Apart from playing the lead role, he has written and produced the film. This multi-faceted involvement seems to have enabled him to have a greater influence on the creative decisions and even call the shots on set. However, when it comes to conveying heartfelt emotions and sentiments, he falls slightly short, leaving room for improvement. Nonetheless, he comes across as confident with his dialogue delivery. On the other hand, Jahnavi adds a delightful touch of romance to the film. Her on-screen presence is enchanting and provides support to her love interest during the election turmoil.  Huli Karthik, usually known for his comedic performances, has showcased his versatility in a negative character.

However, the inclusion of Sadhu Kokila and Naveen Padil in the film feels unnecessary and fails to make a significant contribution to the overall narrative. Their characters seem somewhat disconnected from the central plot, leaving viewers questioning their purpose in the story. Moreover, veteran actor Ashok, unfortunately, has limited screen time, appearing in only a handful of scenes. The film features veteran actor Lakshmi Devi, whose mere presence makes the audience happy.

Despite its attempt to captivate audiences with its social message, Darbar fails in terms of certain entertaining aspects. The film’s execution lacks the finesse and modern touch that today’s audience may expect. The old method of conveying the story, might not resonate well with contemporary viewers. However, it must be acknowledged that the film successfully provides valuable insights into the dark underbelly of local politics, shedding light on the corrupt practices that often plague the electoral process. It serves as a reminder of the dire need for integrity and honesty in political campaigns and elections.

Although primarily targeting rural audiences, the message conveyed in Darbar holds true even for metropolitan cities during elections. It reminds viewers of the importance of making informed choices, not being influenced solely by freebies and demanding transparency from their elected representatives. It is unfortunate, however, that the film didn’t arrive earlier, as it could have served a purpose during the actual Karnataka elections, creating greater awareness and encouraging responsible participation among the electorates.

Director: V Manohar
Cast: Satish, Jahnavi, Huli Karthik, Ashok, and Lakshmi Devi


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