Gokula was a pleasant surprise - a scrappy little family entertainer that packs a big punch. I purchased it, as I do all my Kannada language films, sight unseen. With no way to view these films in the theater and with little available in the way of English-language reviews for Kannada language films, I tend to go purchase films based on favorite heroes and heroines. For Gokula, the hero I purchased it for was Vijaya Ragavendra, an affable looking fellow who charmed me to pieces as the “so sad he turned from color to black and white” hero of Sevanti Sevanti. He doesn’t disappoint in Gokula!
[Raja played by Vijaya Ragavendra]
[N. Raja played by Yash]
The rambling story begins in a state-run orphanage where we meet the four best friends anyone ever had: the two heroes Raja (Vijaya Ragavendra) and N. Raja (Yash), plus their comic relief buddies Shankar and lame-footed Guru. They are introduced to us in a riotous song about life in the orphanage (listen to it here) - these guys don’t care about anybody because nobody ever cared about them. In the finest tradition of filmi orphans, these guys aren’t bad per se but they see no benefit to living inside society’s rules and decide to make their living scamming, stealing, and cheating... all while staying on the good side of their neighborhood’s top rowdy Kaali (the menacing Ravi Kale, who is a Ram Gopal Varma regular.)
[Kaali is legit, yo!]
Not to mention that Raja and N. Raja get themselves a pair of heroines Pooja Gandi (from Mungaru Male) and the squeezably sweet Nakshatra, whom they treat nicely as long as the ladies pick up the tab for meals and expenses.
[The sharp-tongued Pooja Gandi...]
[And the lady with possibly the sweetest face I've ever seen on film - Nakshatra! She's apparently director Rajendra Babu's daughter!]
Things are going just fine for our motley crew until a monkey wrench enters the works - a monkey wrench in the form of the world’s sweetest old couple (Sreenivasa Murthy and Sumithra) who take it into their heads that Raja is really their long lost son. Raja wants no part of it but when the gang sees how wealthy the old couple are, the boys decide to play along to wring all they can out of them. Kaali gets in on the act, too, once he find out about the scam - demanding a huge payment or the boys’ lives.
All of this sounds really callous - and it is, the film doesn’t shy away from showing what jerks these boys can be. They are taking advantage but at the same time, the old couple blossoms with all the youthful energy surrounding them. This partnership may start out as a scam but the boys eventually learn that having a mother and father’s love is permanent and the forgiveness that goes with love is something to treasure.
The cinematography, sets, and costumes are kind of plain but the film does pack some nice visual surprises. All of the songs are fantastic and full of life - with a special note for the hilarious “Baruve Odi Odi” that features a duet on the theme of pursue and flee between Yash and Nakshatra.
"I will become lean in waiting for you..."
"My legs will pain by running away..."
"I am giving signal for your love only."
[All from "Baruve Odi Odi..." I love the angels in that last shot! I uploaded the audio here.]
[This saucy item number from Raagini got her dropped as the heroine from a major film!]
All the music was great, actually, it's by Mano Murthy!
As far as performances are concerned, the only negative I have to say is that Pooja Gandi is kind of wasted as the rich girl heroine and she disappears for a large portion of the middle of the film. Vijaya Ragavendra is really charismatic and it made me wish there were more films of his with English subtitles available. Yash was winningly handsome as the toolbag N. Raja. The real emotional kick of the film is delivered by the world’s sweetest old couple and Sreenivasa Murthy and Sumithra were perfect in the roles. You will want them to adopt you by the end of the film.
In short, Gokula is exactly as advertised, a sweet, scrappy family entertainer and one I can recommend with no reservations.