Harkara review: Only half as good as it ideally should have been

Despite the brilliant performances and the stunning visuals, Ram Arun Castro's directorial fails to connect and move you.

ByManigandan KR

Published:Aug 23, 2023

A poster of the film Harkara
Good attempt but falls flat.

Harkara (Tamil)

  • Cast: Ram Arun Castro, Kaali Venkat, Gautami Chowdry, Pichaikkaran Murthy, Jayaprakash Radhakrishnan, and Nicola Fuste
  • Director: Ram Arun Castro
  • Producers: NA Ramu and Saravanan Ponraj
  • Music: Ramshanker
  • Runtime: 2 hours 5 minutes

Director Ram Arun Castro, who impressed audiences with his performance as an actor in the investigative thriller V1 (2019), chose to not just act but also direct this time.

The story of his directorial Harkara, which its makers claim is based on facts and real-life incidents, revolves around two people.

Postman Kaali (Kaali Venkat) is posted to a sparsely populated village that is right on top of some inaccessible but scenic mountains.

Matheswaran (Ram Arun Castro) is a Harkara or messenger who carries messages to inaccessible regions in the same region during the British rule of India.

Harkara undoubtedly has a significant story to tell. Sadly though, the movie does not narrate the story in a gripping manner and falls flat, making an impression that it is only half as good as it ideally should have been.

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Kaali, the newly appointed postman to the lone post office atop the scenic mountain of Eesan Malai, is disillusioned and looking desperately for a transfer. The reason for his desperation is the place of his posting.

Located in the higher reaches of the mountain, the village, for all practical reasons, is cut off from the rest of the world.

kaali venkat harkara

Kaali venkat in ‘Harkara’. (Twitter)

What is even more annoying to him is the fact that the small, sparsely populated village, comprises mainly illiterate people who use the post office more as a bank than anything else.

Kaali pleads for a transfer. However, his officers in the city flatly refuse to entertain his request, pointing out that they cannot find a replacement for him.

It is at this time that the postman gets an idea. He realises that nobody in the village is educated. So, he chooses to write a petition on behalf of the villagers to the government, asking it to close down the post office and instead open a bank there.

He also fools the villagers into stamping their thumb impressions on this petition.

He believes that the move will result in him eventually getting transferred to another place closer to civilisation.

Soon after having done this, Kaali goes about his job of distributing mail.

One day, a letter that has to be delivered to an elderly woman in the highest point of the neighbouring range, comes to his post office.

Kaali sets off to deliver it and during his long trek, he gets to know about his first predecessor Matheswaran or the Harkara, whom the locals now worship as God.

The story leaves a profound impression on Kaali and makes him change his mind. What the story is and how it changes Kaali is what Harkara is all about.

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Fails to connect with viewers

There can be no two ways about the film’s content. It is rich and refreshing. However, the story fails to connect because of some of the questions that invariably crop up in your mind as the developments begin to unfold.

For instance, the Harkara is shown delivering mail in the region to locals in pre-independence India. This is a little difficult to accept as the initial portions of the film give us the impression that almost all people in the village are uneducated and illiterate.

If people living in the village in this day and age are illiterate, then how could those who lived in the same village during the pre-Independence era be educated enough to write letters?

The film’s soul lies in the ultimate sacrifice that the Harkara makes at one point. However, the reasons that push him to make the sacrifice are not convincingly told. In other words, this portion is not put across strongly enough to the viewers.

Brilliant cinematography

Having said that, Harkara is worth watching for a number of reasons.

The breathtaking visuals of cinematographer Philip R Sundar and Lokesh Elangovan simply leave you spellbound. The good news is that these visuals don’t just appear in one portion but throughout the movie.

Ram Shanker’s music, for a few minutes in the first half, comes across as jarring and makes it difficult for one to follow dialogues.

However, as the story progresses, his background score just blends into the story, accentuating the mood and complementing the beautiful visuals on screen.

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An impressive show by actors

Ram Arun Castro Harkara

Ram Arun Castro in ‘Harkara’. (Twitter)

Kaali Venkat, who made it a habit to come up with impressive performances, delivers yet another realistic performance. He effortlessly slips into the skin of the role as a postman.

Ram Arun Castro, who plays the Harkara, impresses as well. In particular, the Silambam action sequences where he is shown wielding a staff to perfection speak volumes about the amount of training the man must have put in to play the part.

Gautami Chowdry as Durga has few dialogues to deliver. But that doesn’t stop her from owning several scenes and making it all about her.

She lets her eyes do all the talking and ensures that her silent expressions ring louder than the dialogues her male counterparts utter.

A word of appreciation to the makers for their efforts in attempting to shoot this flick in such inhospitable terrain is in order.

Final take

In all, Harkara can best be described as a noble attempt to tell a heroic story. Sadly though, it fails to connect and move you.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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