Another Malayalam film in theaters! I braved the cold, and left the dog home alone for 8 hours, and it was kind of worth it. Not super worth it, but not horrible. If nothing else, it was nice to feel warm for 3 hours watching a movie in Kerala.
I’ve been thinking about nepotism again lately, no particular reason, just some of our discussions about the exciting talented actors working today (Rajkummar Rao, Amit Sadh, Vikrant Massay, Jim Sarbh, etc. etc.) have made me think again about what problems nepotism might create. Mostly I am still of the feeling that it’s none of our business, if these private producers choose to cast who they choose to cast, it is nothing to do with us.
But what makes the difference, I think, is the “launch” film. Star kids get their “launch” film, a running start in the race. While other actors struggle along film to film. The problem is when all available film slots are being taken by the star kids and their “launches” so there is nothing left for other actors to make their mark and be noticed. That’s where the unfairness comes in, when there is no space for experimentation and trying something new, let them have their “launch” but let other people have those films too. And let films be made that aren’t “launches” at all, but just films that can stand on their own merit.
I’m noticing these issues particularly with this film not so much because Pranav Mohanlal was so underserving, but that it was so strange to see this kind of film in Malayalam cinema. A movie where one character seems weighted towards success more than the others. Where the story isn’t given time to breath because it is so focused on making one person more important than all the others. The entire film was set up to make sure that Pranav would not, and could not, fail. Rather than making sure that the film itself, as a whole, would not fail. The last time I felt like that watching a Malayalam film was ABCD with Dulquer.
There’s a difference between these star launch films with the kids rather than with the established stars. This film, in almost every way, felt very similar to Oozham, another Jeethu Joseph movie in which the hero has a special skill, average man turns into revenge seeker, and so on and so on. But in that one, our hero was played by Prithviraj. And you wanted to watch Prithviraj, so much that he didn’t have to be onscreen or mentioned every second for us to remember him. The other characters had their own stories with their own resolutions, and we came back to Prithviraj only when the story was ready for us to come back to him. He was the hero, but he wasn’t the center of it all.
Because, Prithviraj didn’t need any crutches to be the hero. He just Was. The story was written for a hero, and Prithviraj showed up and did the job. That’s what happens when you are a star with a dozen years and a hundred movies behind you. The same was true in Drishyam, the other Jeethu Joseph movie I have seen. I found it a little irritating in both movies just how heroic the hero was, but I was irritated because that is how the script was written, that character was supposed to be the center of it all.
In this film, the script suffers when it tries to swing around Pranav’s strengths instead of going where it wants to go. His strengths, and his weaknesses. The plot is confused partly because Pranav’s parents in the film Siddique and Lena must constantly join in by phone in order to help us understand Pranav’s emotions and motivations because Pranav’s acting isn’t anywhere near able to convey that. And the other more interesting actors and characters are undercut, their stories shortened, their heroic moments taken from them, in order to give them to Pranav.
It’s a solid film overall, that’s why it was picked for Pranav’s launch. Jeethu Joseph is a solid director/writer, Mohanlal took a small chance on him by starring in Drishyam which paid off in a big way for both of them. A little later, Mohanlal (I am sure) asked him to hire Pranav as his assistant director. And eventually this film happened, Jeethu knowing what Pranav’s strengths were, and Mohanlal and Pranav knowing that Jeethu would craft a “can’t miss” film around them.
But the whole time I couldn’t help thinking of the other film that could have been made. The one that starred an unassuming young actor with a lot of experience, who happily shared the screen and plot with those around him. Where the plot remained focused on the plot instead of on building up the perfection of one actor/character.
Most of all, a film with either less, or better, parkour. Maybe I am spoiled having seen District B13 approximately ten million times, and Ong-Bak Thai Warrior have that many, and every Tiger Shroff movie at least once, but there is a difference between someone who does decent parkour and might as well do it in a movie, and someone who does jaw-dropping mindblowing parkour, so good that you HAVE to make a movie about it. This is definitely the first option, a guy who does better parkour than anything else, so you might as well use it. But really, and I say this sincerely, “eh”. Less parkour=better movie. But also, less parkour=less Pranav. And so, by the transitive property, we ended up with more parkour=more Pranav=worse movie.
(Now THIS is a parkour scene!!!)