Director : Hariharan
Main Cast : Mammootty,Sarath Kumar,Kanika,Padmapriya
Music : Ilaiyaraja
Producer : Gokulam Gopalan
Story/Writer: M. T. Vasudevan Nair
Review by : Unni / Kerala9.com
Doing full justice to all the hype, ‘Pazhassi Raja’ turns out to be a well-made film, one that satisfies all those who had been waiting to get something from the team that had earlier come together twenty years ago to deliver ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’. A film of real epic proportions, ‘Pazhassi Raja’ is a real brilliant work, one that would appeal to average film-goers as well as to critics.
‘Pazhassi Raja’, which presents on screen the war that Pazhassi Raja of Thalassery in Kerala fought with the British about half a century before the Sepoy Mutiny, begins from where the British government decides to levy heavy taxes on local rulers and begins seizure and annexation related procedures. Pazhassi Raja, his queen Kaitheri Manickam, his commander Edachena Kunkan and his lieutenant Kaitheri Ambu are forced to flee and take refuge elsewhere. And then, with the help of the tribal warriors, led by Thalackal Chanthu and Neeli, the begin a war against the British, who of course has the support of some traitors too, including Pazhayamveedan Chanthu, who had in fact got trained in martial arts under Pazhassi Raja. It’s this and the consequent happenings that the film endeavours to trace, in a very spectacular manner.
Hariharan, MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty coming together after twenty long years has of course been big news for Malayalam Cinema. Those who had liked ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’, one of the best movies ever made in Malayalam, were awaiting the film with all eagerness, of course doubting at the same time whether the film viewers of today, who were not so particular or fascinated about the MT factor (MT no doubt is the best scenarist that Malayalam Cinema has ever had and attracted youngsters too to the box office at one time. But times and preferences have changed and hence the doubt). But it’s heartening to see large crowds thronging to see ‘Pazhassi Raja’ and all shows going house-full, everywhere. Of course you may tend to say that it’s more due to the hype surrounding the movie and the fact that it’s also a multi-starrer of sorts. Maybe yes, but it’s indeed heartening to see that the film has got a real great opening. Hope it does get to revive the costs incurred in the making of the movie, a budget never heard before in Malayalam Cinema. And hope the film does well in other parts of India too, because it’s going to be released in other languages too.
A young chap was heard saying, outside a theatre showing ‘Pazhassi Raja’, “No one else can do this role”. A very precise observation indeed, though not coming from an ‘erudite’ critic. The character of Pazhassi Raja seems to have been made for Mammootty and Mammootty alone. He fits into the role with all ease and looks handsome and majestic as the Raja. He does full justice to the role. Anyway, on the down side, it has to be mentioned that the character of Pazhassi Raja has been done in such a manner that in the first half Mammootty seems to be playing it down to a great extent. In fact it could even be said that the scenarist has not cared to make the characters, including that of Pazhassi Raja, multidimensional and hence there are scenes where Mammootty gets to do or perform nothing. He even seems to be a rather mute spectator to the proceedings and then takes over in the latter half of the film only. Thus Mammootty doesn’t get to perform or emote much in the first half, but does that brilliantly towards the end of the movie. Sharath Kumar as Edachena Kunkan is simply mesmerizing. You may even tend to see this as his career best. He has done a great job of the role and has proved that he is much more than a star, a real good actor indeed. Padmapriya has done a great work of the character of Neeli and she needs to be appreciated for the pains she had taken for the role. Manoj.K.Jayan as Thalackal Chanthu is equally good. Suresh Krishna impresses as Kaitheri Ambu while Suman is good as Pazhayamveedan Chanthu. Kaniha as Kaitheri Manickam looks good and fits into the character perfectly, though she doesn’t have much to do, performance-wise. Thilakan, who appears in a couple of scenes, is his very usual, impressive self. Jagathy Sreekumar’s performance is in his usual style and doesn’t stand out as did his character and performance in the Hariharan- M.T film ‘Parinayam’. The others are all OK.
Cinematography for ‘Pazhassi Raja’ is excellent, simply splendid. The frames are all composed brilliantly. Editing and art-direction are among the other highlights. Of course sound recording by Resul Pookutty is good and syncs well with the whole of the movie. But we often tend to wonder if we would have taken note of his work or for that matter sound-recording in any movie, hadn’t Resul bagged the Oscar!
The music scored by Illayaraja may not seem outstanding, but is good nevertheless. But it could have been bettered, a lot. Of the songs, the patriotic song rendered by Yesudas, beginning “Aadhiyushassandhya…” has come out really well and has a patriotic fervour to it. The other song, sung by Chithra, beginning ‘Kunnaththe…” is equally good and has been filmed well.
Jnanpith recipient writer M.T.Vasudevan Nair, who has given us so many brilliant scripts as well as first rate films, has no doubt done an enormous amount of research for the film and has done a good work of the script. He has taken special care of the characterization aspect too. It’s to be noted that he had taken care not to make it all romantic and had made the treatment thoroughly realistic, as the subject of course demands. At the same time, it seems he had forgotten that people are often many personalities rolled into one and that characters should be multi-dimensional or multi-faceted, something which is lacking as far as the characters in ‘Pazhassi Raja’ are concerned. Let’s not forget the scene where we come to adore Aromal Chekavar, in ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’, for criticizing those who had stood up as a mark of respect on seeing him and at the same time hadn’t cared to respect his father. That makes the character stand out. It’s that streak that’s not to be seen in ‘Pazhassi Raja’. There isn’t the kind of dialogues in ‘Pazhassi Raja’ that you still like to remember about ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha’ or most MT films. Anyway for die-hard admirers of MT scripts, there may be a word of caution to put across. This of course may not be his best; and hence don’t try to compare ‘Pazhassi Raja’ with any of MT’s earlier ventures. See it for what it is; it is a good work from MT indeed.
Director Hariharan, who has always taken special care to make the best out of MT’s scripts, has done a good job here too. And he needs to be appreciated for having been in total control and taking good care of the characters. Hats off to the director for having done a really brilliant movie.
As a postscript, let me add this. Well, if you stop and wonder, after seeing the movie as to whose movie it was, you will perhaps be surprised. It’s definitely not MT’s, in the usual sense, because every film scripted by MT has some trademark qualities that make it stand out as an MT film on the whole. The script scores the most and the film remains etched on our memory as an MT film. But here, with ‘Pazhassi Raja’, this is not the case. MT has done a brilliant job, but let us better not call it an MT film. It’s definitely not a Hariharan movie too. And neither is it Mammootty’s. It’s everyone’s movie. It belongs to all those who have come together to make it and becomes much more than an MT film or a Hariharan film or a Mammootty film.
Overall verdict- Excellent. Worth the wait.