My First Kannada Movie Jeevana Chaitra

How we found it:  Last week Satya and I rented “Jeevana Chaitra” (Satya said it translates roughly to “Cycle of Life”) from NetFlix.  We were both surprised that NetFlix carried Kannada movies because when we would type in “Kannada” in NetFlix nothing would turn up.  Eventually, Satya just typed in some popular Kannada movie titles and was surprised when a few turned up.  We also found some by clicking on the actors in the movies to see what other movies of theirs NetFlix carries.


Plot Summary:  This movie traces the adult life of a man played by Dr. Rajkumar.  The movie opens with him and a young woman falling in love at first sight at a wedding.  They eventually marry and have three sons.  While the sons are growing up, the man is a benevolent leader of a few villages.  Villagers come to him with their issues and he tries to help.  Quickly he discovers that alcohol is a major problem in the villages—men buy alcohol and get drunk using up their few rupees and not working while the wives and children get neglected and abused.  He shuts down the store and factory and thus creates an enemy, the owner of the liquor store and factory.  Later in the movie, the three sons all make disappointing matches thus breaking his heart and his wife’s heart and leading to her death.


What I liked:  the songs, seeing more of Karnataka, and hearing Kannada. 


What I didn’t understand:  The relationship between Dr. Rajkumar’s character and the villagers seemed very feudal.  He seemed like a king listening and solving the problems of his subjects, the villagers.  Is that how villages still operate?  I thought that there was a village council, not just one person or one family.


I didn’t quite understand the heartbreak over his sons’ choice of wives.  One married the daughter of his enemy and didn’t want to live in the family compound and become a doctor in the village.  I can understand his disappointment that the dream he made for his son didn’t come true, but he should have consulted with his son first.  The other son carried a photo of a girl which his mother discovered.  They soon married.  The man and his wife planned to marry the last son to their niece (daughter of the wife’s brother) because she was willing to live in the family compound and because she got along well with the man and his wife.  The last son instead snuck off and quickly married a girl he had found himself.  He snuck off because he didn’t want to face the anger of his parents, he called himself “a coward”. 


I can understand him being shocked at first, but the movie didn’t show him trying to get to know the girls and what they value.  Perhaps this question is answered near the end of the movie…after a very long time the man returns to his home and walks in on his sons and their wives hosting a party with dancing and drinking and loud music  (sounded to me like the instrumental part to Rod Stewart’s “If you think I’m sexy song”).  Satya joked that the only thing that could have made it worse was if they were also eating meat.


The ending was positive.  The sons and daughters-in-law have a newfound respect for the man and will respect and uphold the values of the man.  I guess the movie could have shown the older generation in Karnataka that the younger generation will listen to them if they provide a good example.


Cultural Background:  This movie was made in the early 1990’s when India was still mostly closed to the world economically.  Dr. Rajkumar’s character offered the liquor factory workers a deal: a few acres of land if they would leave the factory.  The tech explosion was still in the future.  The movie resulted in many liquor store owners closing their shops, although Satya says that Karnataka is still one of India’s leading manufacturers of alcohol.  Within his family, alcohol consumption is still a taboo.


What I didn’t like:  Why were all the young men in the movie so ugly?  Has anybody else noticed this?  They weren’t even average looking-very chubby.  Of course the bad ‘90s hair didn’t help. I also didn’t like the film quality.  Even though it was made in the early ’90s, the picture looked like one from the ’60s or ’70s which was too bad since there was some gorgeous scenery.


Also, the movie was a lot like a morality play because some parts were very melodramatic and unbelievable (esp. death of Dr. Rajkumar’s wife).  Basically, the message seemed to be that people should uphold traditional family values, not drink, and should farm rather than work in factories.  I wish the characters had been more fully developed. 


Conclusion:  The movie was ok.  The songs and scenery were gorgeous.  I’m looking forward to seeing some more Kannada movies.  Right now we are watching Malgudi Days.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ashwini
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 01:58:53


  2. Quirky Indian
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 04:34:09

    Minnie, welcome to the strange world of Indian films……have fun.

    And to answer your question – 90% of all Indian films have a ‘moral’ angle to them. 🙂


    Quirky Indian


  3. quizman
    Oct 01, 2008 @ 22:44:31

    This blog may give a good insight into all things related to Karnataka. It was founded by a famous journalist and has good guest commentators.


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