Puneeth Rajkumar's one last ride into the sunset is reviewed by James.
The release of Puneeth Rajkumar's last film, James, on his birthday is an emotional event for fans. The sad circumstances surrounding the release of this film make it remarkable and unique. Puneeth would have been 47 today if he hadn't died of a heart arrest last year, while he was in the prime of his profession.
People are lining up to see their favourite perform what he does best on screen one last time in the action thriller. James is introduced by director Chethan Kumar in a very familiar manner. He sets the scene for the hero's entrance by introducing the primary antagonists (of which there are many) and the main struggle. Santhosh Kumar, played by Puneeth Rajkumar, is the owner of J Wings, a private security firm. He is recruited by a wealthy businessman to save his daughter, who has been kidnapped by his competitors. While elite police officers and politicians on his payroll fail to help the disgruntled businessman, Santhosh jumps right in.
We also learn later that Santhosh is a natural at rescue operations. Santhosh's debut scene checks all the boxes in the hero entry checklist. Rangayana Raghu plays a faithful sidekick who encourages Santhosh. We first see Santhosh's feet, then his silhouette, and finally him boarding his costume-made muscle automobile while composer Charan Raj's orchestra plays the beats with a full-throttle blast. We have yet to glimpse the director's face, and it appears that he is biding his time. However, Chethan understands that the supporters are keen to see Puneeth's face, given the circumstances. That segment is one of the last scenes he shot before his untimely demise, so it's a special occasion for them.
Toss in a vehicle chase scene. Puneeth's eyes are only visible in the rearview mirror as he conducts a series of manoeuvres behind the wheel to avoid the hostile attack. Then he used his car to deftly burst open water pipes on the side of the road. Puneeth turns on the wipers of his revolving automobile, where we finally see his face one last time – alive and kicking – with water from the busted pipes pouring on the road like rain, drowning everything around it. The audience had been waiting for this moment.
The powerful sense of melancholy that comes with the awareness that this will be the final time Puneeth dances, fights, smiles, cries, and delivers punchlines can't be ignored. And one would want to savour these times rather than obsess over them. Shivarajkumar's voice, strangely, is a fantastic match for Puneeth. Shivarajkumar and Raghavendra Rajkumar, Puneeth's older siblings, appear in the film as cameos. They play teachers to a group of young orphaned boys, preparing them spiritually and psychologically to cope with the loss of loved ones.
Puneeth's character is shot in the stomach in one episode. He is discovered motionless by a friend. He then grabs Puneeth's shoulders and shakes him hard. Puneeth resurrects, blood dripping from his mouth. However, it appears that some things can only happen in movies.