Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pazhassi Raja- A review

I am of the firm belief that Malayalam film is on the path to ascension. It may be a slight trickle now. But soon the change will turn to a drizzle. A promising bunch has already started claiming their rightful place in the food chain.
But before that the old guard has to find its way out. More importantly a new bunch of producers who love cinema has to come in instead of those who see film field as the place to wash their black money white.

Most of the reviews had claimed ‘Pazhassi Raja’ as a path breaker in Malayalam cinema. So on a drizzling Saturday morning I stood on the queue for the ticket. This movie was about to change the face of Malayalam cinema in the same way ‘Chemeen’ did years back.
Pazhassi Raja was released with much fanfare and controversies. It was claimed that the movie brought bad luck to the producer in terms of money and lives lost. Many crew members lost their lives during the period and so did his son. Later he demanded higher rates for tickets because of the huge production costs. The movie boasted expert technicians including Resul Pookutty (his first Malayalam movie).
I was late by 10 minutes. From the first moment I realized that movie was far away from what I expected. This is a strictly personal review.

In my view the negatives outweigh the positives. So positives first. The music was exceptionally good.
I feel proud that great Illava Raja was accepted with both the hands by Malayalam audience when Tamil seems to have forgotten him.

Another positive from the other side of border is Sharath Kumar (Kunkan, Pazhassi’s commander). The movie is tailor made for him even though the credits must have gone for the king rather than the commander. Blame the script.

Yet another positive from the Tamil side is Padmapriya who looked vicious. She slimmed down to perfect figure for a fighter. She showed her versatility to do roles other than the stereotype housewife. She looks fast and fearless while doing her part of the action. The reason I appreciate her is there was this Hindi movie ‘Gunaah’ with the gym fanatic Bips playing a police officer. There was a scene where she runs on a roof and it seemed that she is finding it tough to keep balance on the roof because of the heavily bouncing boobs. Women are cast in action sequences in Indian movies merely for the sake of sensuality . Padmapriya did a path breaking performance and it was genuine.

Cinematography was good in parts especially the shots in forest. The reflections on water, rays of sun falling through the trees are fantastic shots.

Coming to the negatives.
Producer is not just a financier. There was a loss of purpose throughout the movie. Pazhassi was a strategist and not an action hero. He devised the guerilla warfare against the British. But the movie was given (or attempt was made to give) a ‘Brave heart’ touch and it failed at that point. Mammooty was made a spectator while Sharath shone.

Stunts were okay but for the flying part. It is pretty indigestible to see fat guys doing a vertical take-off. Besides the flying motions were made too slow and thus looked funny.
In other words it should have been a script based movie. But MT’s script was sidelined. MT is a proven veteran and he delivers consistently. Even though Malayalam fell short in terms of finance compared to its South Indian counterparts, it could proudly say that it comes second to none when it comes to quality. Even now I believe script need not be sacrificed for the sake of big budget flicks.

The main players seem too old for the movie. When I saw Hariharan’s ‘Mayookham’ I thought he was about to retire from the industry. No matter how veteran you are the treatment has to match with the times. Hariharan failed to convert an ‘epic in paper’ to ‘epic in reality’.

Mamootty carved a niche for himself in the industry with his character, talent and hard work. He is incomparable in terms of his achievements. While watching the movie I wondered if anyone ever told him he is too old for the role. If not, I would say humbly ‘Move on’. It seemed that he is too tired to do this. The ineffective punch dialogues too didn’t help the cause. Throughout the movie Mammootty walks around in silk dresses holding the sword in a peculiar fashion.
The worst part was the climax fight. In all the period films there would be a war where the hero will die. The spirit of the whole movie lies there. In this case, I haven’t seen a more funny fight. It resembled mock wars we did as kids in school ground. Handful of people on both the fighting sides. A few guys standing around as audience to watch the fight. Interestingly British wanted him alive and sent people to take on Pazhassi in sword fight. But Pazhassi finished them one by one just by the swing of his sword. At last British got bored and shot him. There was a fiery speech in English by Mamootty before the fight. It’s supposed to boil your blood but you will surely fall out of your seat laughing.

An essential ingredient in war based films is action and thrills. It is mostly stimulated by the camera. The post production masala gives the finishing touches. But in our movie cinematography was so sore in shooting the war sequences. Camera work was ordinary, inexperienced and amateur. The jungle fights was so boring to extent that many a times it seemed that the entire jungle warfare was made to exhibit the tree climbing skills of Manoj K Jayan.

Dialogues and mannerisms looked as if the cast came out of a stage drama. I don’t understand why there is a tendency to paint the characters in period films as idealistic rather than realistic.
Social, religious and political scenarios were totally ignored in the film. I doubt if audience is able to connect with the environment. The entire films revolves around Pazhassi and his compatriots
And the unforgivable sin is introduction of an unwanted character- wife of the Asst. Collector. I doubt if she is there in the real life story. She appears as half lunatic. When she leaves him with the dialogue ‘I pray convey my best wishes to Pazhassi’, it seemed that director was too eager to get rid of her. Why was the need to fall into this familiar cliché, when you have no much substance for the character.

The Englishmen in the movie resembled a jobless lot from UK with their funny beards, sideburns. They could have done well as a bunch of clowns.

Other than Padmapriya the entire feminine characters are sidelined. The only women actors in the movie is Kaniha and Padmapriya, two aunts appear now and then (one of them with heavy lip gloss and lip liner), a few women fighters. Out of these Kaniha’s job is to cry and exhibit the beautiful figure.

Overall if I am asked to name the movie in a phrase it would be –‘Opportunity Lost’

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Shakespeare,Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln never saw a movie,heard a radio or looked at TV. They had loneliness and knew what to do with it. Thay were not afraid of being lonely because they knew that was when the creative mood in them would work.