Movie Review: Lucia (Kannada) 177

Move over Christopher Nolan, India has its own top-notch dream based psychological thrillers. While Nolan’s ‘Inception’ was widely acclaimed, there has hardly been anyone who understood the film in entirety; reason being, the story was inherently flawed. The latest Kannada film by Pawan Kumar, ‘Lucia’ plays around the concept of dreams and the blurring between reality and dream states; without the pizzazz of special effects, but with better storytelling and editing.

The film begins with a patient, Nikki (Satish Neenasam) in a coma and a debate around euthanasia. Cut to flash back, Nikki is an average Joe, unnoticeable in the Bangalore crowd. He works at his uncle’s decrypt movie hall as an usher and suffers from insomnia. The love of his life is Shweta (Sruthi Hariharan) who works at a local Pizza outlet who seems to want more from life than poor Nikki.            

He is soon introduced to a wayside drug ‘Lucia’ that promises to cure his sleeplessness, but with other side effects that let him dream about the life he seeks. And lo, he turns into a movie star Nikki who also seems to have issues with a newbie actress Shweta; the track played out in monochrome. How Nikki deals with his life in both worlds forms the rest of the story, a suspense best left undisclosed.

The concept of lucid dreaming, in a way, reminded me of ‘Vanilla Sky’ where Tom Cruise’s character who loses touch with reality and is lost under the dreamy skies like in the famous Monet painting. But the similarities end there. Another semblance is with Nolan’s ‘Memento’ with two tracks, one in color and the other in Monochrome that merge into a logical ending. The editing in “Lucia” is as good as in ‘Memento’ and keeps the audience hooked; truly world-class editing there!

‘Lucia’ is a landmark film in the Kannada filmdom as it is the first crowd-funded independent film in Kannada. The opening credits show more than a hundred people who responded to Pawan Kumar’s facebook post. The film was made with only INR 50 Lakh, a pittance as compared to the usual big budget blockbusters with top stars, foreign locales and cars blowing up in action stunts.

To its credit, Lucia doesn’t have any stars but each of them did well. For Satish Neenasam, it was his first as a lead actor and convincingly plays the regular local dude who may be seen in a down-market movie hall having big dreams. Sruthi Hariharan who is said to have had origins in dance and then moved on to films, does a decent job, both as the simple neighborhood waitress and as a budding actress.

Apart from the drugs and dreams, the underlying story in ‘Lucia’ deals with the needs and wants of its various characters who have two roles, one in the real world and then another one in the dream world with its own set of metaphors. What plays out includes the inherent conflicts in romance, class, language and other issues as well as an investigative undertone that begins with the first scene.

Songs from the film come with entertaining everyday lyrics composed by Poornachandra Tejaswi, a software engineer turned music director; and this is his first attempt. While some like ‘Helu Shiva’ come with a very modern touch, ‘Thinbedakami’ is funny and has a rustic feel.

So, does ‘Lucia’ lack anything? There is nothing that is grossly amiss as such. The only element of finesse which is left wanting is the dubbing, which seems mismatched in a couple of scenes.

‘Lucia’ premiered at the London Indian Film Festival this July and won the Best Film Audience Choice award. Already, the film is drawing enough attention in screens nation-wide as it has been released with English subtitles. So, even if you don’t know Kannada, the subtitles are there to assist you.

Verdict: Those of you who may have given up on Kannada films, or others who think that all South Indian movies are about fat, dark actors dancing with fair skinned babes, prepare to get overwhelmed. ‘Lucia’ will keep you occupied with its story, every single second of its screen-time.

Rating 8/10: Psychological thriller that blurs the line between dreams and reality