In a striking scene from Hadinelentu (Seventeeners), two teenagers — Deepa (Sherlyn Bhosale) and Hari (Neeraj Mathew) — are called to the principal’s chamber. Their leaked sex tape, filmed inside a classroom, has spread online like wildfire. “He is a boy, but you, being a girl, should have been careful,” says the vice-principal (a superb Rekha Kudligi) to Deepa. Later, when their parents are informed about the issue, Deepa’s sister asks her to quit her studies and help her mother, who works as a cook at a government school.
In two scenes, director Prithvi Konanur establishes society’s deep-seated gender and economic inequalities. Hadinelentu, which will hit the screens on January 26, has been a festival favourite for over a year. After premiering at the Busan International Film Festival, the film opened in the Panorama Section at the International Film Festival of India in Goa in 2022. Prithvi, director of Pinki Elli and Railway Children, is one of the poster boys of Kannada’s parallel cinema resurgence. Yet, Hadinelentu is as good as any mainstream movie. It may not have several well-known faces, but the actors at its disposal and Prithvi’s taut writing ensure a solid drama that grows into a gripping thriller.
Director: Prithvi Konanur
Cast: Sherlyn Bhosale, Neeraj Mathew, Nagendra Sha, Sudha Belawadi, Bhavani Prakash
Runtime: 125 minutes
Storyline: A self-recorded sex tape of two 17-year-olds gets leaked on the internet, leading to irreparable damages in the lives of every stakeholder
Deepa is a Dalit girl, and Hari hails from a Brahmin family. Caste had no place in their teenage love but it rears its ugly head when the issue boils down to reputation. Students from “good family backgrounds” tend to be treated leniently, while those like Deepa, who are from an oppressed community, need to fight it out to survive in the system. It doesn’t matter if Deepa is a volleyball champion, as she is forced to sacrifice her dreams. The film reflects the skewed balance of power in society when it shows the affluent boy’s family having multiple options to bail themselves out of the situation.
Hadinelentu gets even better when it stops judging its characters who initially come across as unidimensional. For instance, an OBC teacher is suddenly revealed as selfish and we see the boy’s parents become less harsher on the girl. Even the vice president, aware of the corruption around her, turns sympathetic towards the girl. That’s when Prithvi unleashes his biggest twist; the issue falls at the mercy of the country’s complicated legal system. As we sit on the edge of our seats praying for these teenagers, the film also warns us of how involving ourselves in some risky practices could land us in legal trouble.
Hadinelentu is a reflection of our times. Teachers being petrified of the possibility of college students sharing the video on Instagram and Facebook tells us how social media will always remain a boon and a bane. The biggest triumph of Hadinelentu is that it leaves us with lots to discuss without lecturing about its intentions. Apart from a solid effort from the leads, the performances from Sudha Belawadi, Bhavani Prakash, and Nagendra Sha add to the movie’s realistic tone. It’s surprising how Hadinelentu hardly fumbles. That’s what makes the film world-class.
Hadinelentu is currently running in theatres