Mansore, the director of two national award-winning films (Harivu and Nathicharami) certainly took a major risk going for a bold social thriller instead of a thoughtful drama made on the similar lines of his much-acclaimed films. But then, that’s how a restless artistic mind keeps trying to satisfy his creative urges.
So, with Act 1978, Mansore tries to depict the plight of the common man, caught in the web of corruption and red-tape bureaucracy, repeatedly visiting the government offices for his work. With an unusual title pointing towards the actual Act 1978, though the writing deals with an entirely familiar premise set in a predictable world, the film still manages to engage and impress, mainly through its applaud-worthy lead performances and an emotionally charged climax leaving you with moist eyes.
To be fair, Act 1978 doesn’t have many surprises till its final 30 minutes of disclosures, because the trailer reveals it all, focusing on a pregnant woman with a bomb strapped to her body holding a government office and its employees as hostages. The film begins on a calm note introducing its key characters and the format appears to be of a stage play, with every actor taking his or her marked place on the stage (location).
The initial developments also make you recall the satirical TV series Office-Office with Pankaj Kapur going from one officer’s desk to another requesting for his work. Here the same is presented as a social thriller with the protagonist taking on the path of Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday using a pistol and a bomb, holding all the officers as hostages.
However, it still works as this is a common issue and the pain has been felt by almost every person interacting with the uninterested officers delaying the files for the obvious reason. The film also keeps you engrossed through its well-written dialogues, superfine cinematography, a subtle background score, and the suspense element remaining intact followed by some shocking revelations, showcasing the dark, ugly reality of our corrupt system.
Having said that, the execution finds its grip after a while progressing at a slower pace, and the easily predictable premise remains its key drawback. Thankfully, the powerful lead performances of Yajna Shetty and Suresha B don’t let you complain about these shortcomings along with an impressive supporting cast including Pramod Shetty and Sanchari Vijay, who make their presence felt in the second half of the film that strongly delivers, fulfilling the expectations raised.
Tackling a delicate subject mocking the government, Act 1978 also points towards the role of police, media, and authorities in such tense and unsure situations trying to maintain a decent balance. As a director, Mansore largely succeeds in this hard task, but the film still falls short of being a unique masterpiece as his earlier films.
At the same time, this is indeed a commendable effort made with all the right intentions, as cinema also has a responsibility of presenting ‘the wrong’ happening in our society by raising a timely alarm. More importantly, Act 1978 is a brave and daring attempt made in the present times, when the content in cinema is being watched and scrutinized differently. Besides, it’s certainly heartening to see the Indian regional language films coming up with such thought-provoking subjects when proposals like these are not finding many takers in Hindi cinema.
Title: ACT 1978 (Kannada)
Cast: Yajna Shetty, B Suresha, Pramod Shetty, Sanchari Vijay, Avinash, Shruthi, Dattanna, Achyuth Kumar, Sharanya and Raghu Shivamogga
Streaming platform: Amazon Prime
Rating: 3.5 / 5