Breaking Posts:

The Times of Twism

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja: The Review

"Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja booked solid for the next two weeks by Mammooty fans"

Being a person who hates the whole concept of fan clubs for movie stars, this was almost enough to put me off from watching the movie, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (fondly referred to as Pazhassi Raja). The fact that Pazhassi Raja is the most expensive Malayalam production(so far), didn't exactly help in my preliminary judgment of the movie. Now don't get me wrong here: I have nothing against producers single handedly trying to reboot a stagnant economy with an expensive movie. Its just that, in my opinion, an expensive production does not necessarily translate into an awesome movie (Remember Jeans?). Anyway, to cut a long story short, I pulled a few strings and managed to conjure up a ticket for Pazhassi Raja.

Although I walked in to the theatre with my preconceptions, expecting a three hour waste of time and money, I was converted and baptized by the time they showed the end credits.The thought that I have to blog about this movie, blossomed somewhere at the end of the first fight sequence.
Since Pazhassi Raja is set in feudal Kerala, at the time the Brits started taking over India, it would help if one knew the context of the movie. I believe that my high school history teacher reads this blog, due to which I would rather not talk about the history. A better option would be to head over and check out Nikhil's brilliant review of the movie/history primer. In short, the movie is a biopic of a King of the Kottayam Royal Family, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.
This review will mainly consider how awesome(yeah, seriously) Pazhassi Raja is in various departments, as a movie(duh). Kindly excuse if it seems amateur-ish, because quite frankly, it is posted by an amateur.
Cinematography: There is a good reason why this aspect of the movie gets top mention. From the very first scene to the last scene, I was awed by the colors that they have used to paint the movie in. In some places the cinematography manages to capture Kerala in the colors that Raja Ravi Varma would have used. Don't expect crazy and creative camera angles from the movie; you are bound to be disappointed. The camera work is simple, but it does a neat job of showing you the carefully choreographed fight sequences.
Sound: There were a lot of expectations from Resul Pookutty in this department, especially considering his Oscar winner status. Resul Pookutty takes those expectations, and comfortably surpasses them with his eye(or should it be ear?) for detail. Every sword strike, every rain drop has been captured meticulously and provide an immersive experience for the audience. The songs in the movie however, although true to the period of the film, didn't have any magic in them.
Direction: Director Hariharan does a great job of keeping the three hour movie coherent. His vision for the movie is manifest in the level of detailing used. Case in point: In one scene depicting the interiors of a palace illuminated by lamps, the soot deposit on the walls is displayed prominently.
Script and screenplay: To recapture the story of a person hailed as the Lion of Kerala, keeping in mind that the story remains relevant to the average theatre goer, is no easy deal. M.T. Vasudevan Nair does well to write dialogues that stay faithful to the story, and to add in a few applause garnering monologues. The characters in his script have an unbelievable depth to them and are the end products of sufficient research(My Aunt tells me this).
Performances: The cast consisting of Mammootty, SharathKumar, Padmapriya, Manoj K Jayan (amongst other stalwarts) have put in sterling performances. Mammootty, in the titular role, plays the role of a King who is torn between his ideals of freedom and the welfare of his people, to perfection. SarathKumar comes across as the surprise package and gets the lions share of the applause-gathering dialogues. His portrayal of the loyal army commander to Pazhassi Raja, is both moving and intense. Manoj K Jayan and Padmapriya, slip comfortably into the role of the tribals that help PazhassiRaja wage a guerilla war. Listing out each and every performance would be time consuming and redundant, as all the actors have(cliched as it may sound) 'become' their respective characters and have put in incredible performances. Special mention has to be made for the foreign cast, which doesn't seem like a ragtag bunch of vacationers made to act in a movie(as is the norm for most Indian freedom struggle movies). The foreign cast manages to provide some value addition for the film.

Negatives: Since I have been going on, babbling about what I liked about the movie, its only fair that I write about what I did not appreciate about the movie. The editing, for one, could have been better. There were situations where I was left wondering as to what happened to the story. I would like to believe that attempting to compress all the footage that was shot into the space of three hour caused this. I also don't know whether an artificial looking wire stunt in between a realistic fight sequence was necessary. While discussing this with my friend the other day, he told me that the warriors of that era were very shaolin-esque.

There you have it. The pros and cons of the film. It is very difficult to tell when a work of art has stuck a chord with you. In my opinion, it is when you are aware of the negatives, but try to come up with justifications to nullify those negatives (the way I am). Needless to say, I will go ahead and watch this film once more, and may even get the DVD, as and when it is launched. In my capacity of an average movie goer that has been made to sit through some positively mind numbing Malayalam films over the last year, my only prayer for the movie is that it recovers its investment manifold and rakes in the moolah. With that, the producers will have an incentive to back new projects that are both intellectually stimulating and financially viable, in the league of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja.

Final Verdict: One watch is mandatory. More than one watch is highly advisable!

P.S. For my non-mallu readers: The movie is slated to be dubbed and released in Tamil, Hindi and various other Indian languages. I am not a big fan of dubbed films and I feel it would be better to watch the movie in Malayalam with subtitles. However, to each his own, and if you feel comfortable with dubbed movies, go ahead and watch it in a theatre ASAP!
blog comments powered by Disqus