You can probably read this review even if you haven’t seen the film. There are a few plot twists, but it is the action and chase scenes that make the film the film stand out, and reading spoilers won’t give you the sense of those. Or satisfy your curiosity about seeing Mohanlal’s son onscreen.
Whole plot in One Paragraph:
Pranav Mohanlal is an up and coming musician from a well off family, his parents are Lena and Siddique. He gets a chance to play at a club in Bangalore where a lot of film industry people come, everything goes great, but then an old friend from school jumps up on stage to dance, the men she is with try to stop her, Pranav shoves them away, and then quickly exits and ends up on the roof of the building. The men find him there, there is a fight, and one of the other men (Siju Wilson) shoves the other man off the side of the building. Pranav is blamed for it, the dead man is the son of Jagapati Babu who runs the most powerful bank in the city, Pranav goes on the run from his goons helped by a pickpocket (played by Sharaf I Dheen) who meets him by coincidence and also was destroyed by Jagapati so decides to help him. Pranav hides at Sharaf’s house and various other locations, helped by Sharaf’s sister Anusree and his friend Meghanathan. Finally, Sharaf is killed and Pranav decides to stop hiding. He comes up with a plan to infiltrate the tower where Jagapati has his office, bringing with him the woman who witnessed the fight, to tell Jagapati the truth, that Pranav is innocent it was Siju Wilson who killed his son. The meet Jagapati, but Siju bursts in and shoots Jagapati, then some other character comes in and shoots Siju and declares he will blame Jagapati and Siju for killing each other and take control. Pranav manages to escape from the building by rappelling down the side, and it all works out because Jagapati isn’t actually dead and lives to testify against the other two while Pranav can go back to his life. His parents offer Anusree money and a job and declare she is their “daughter” now and Pranav is her brother. Happy Ending.
If that felt confusing to read, it was also confusing to watch. Mostly because our “hero” Pranav is the least interesting actor to watch. We spent a lot of time with his parents, a lot of time with Sharaf and Anusree and even Meghanathan. And all their stories and so on just sort of confused things instead of keeping it focused totally on Pranav and the main storyline. But on the other hand, we couldn’t stay totally focused on the main storyline because that would mean a whole lot of Pranav and he was, frankly, pretty boring to watch.
Because all of the “good guys” got soooooooooooo much screen time in order to fluff up the Pranav half, the “bad guys” got comparatively less screen time which made all of their plots and allegiances and so on very very hard to follow. If you read that description closely, you will notice that ultimately it is Jagapati who is the true victim (his staff killed his son and are trying to take over his company) and the true hero (he survives to testify and take down the bad guys). And yet he got very little screen time and we never had a clear sense of who he was or what he felt or any of that.
There are two “good guy” moments that really stand out, the death of Sharath (because Sharath can actually ACT), and the final heist and all its complications. If I were re-writing this film, I would build around those two moments. Give a minimal backstory to Pranav to make him feel like an average kid we care about, have him meet Sharath ASAP and make it a real two hero film from there on out, and then expand have Sharath’s death followed by the heist sequence, and end the film. Cut all the parkour fight scenes/chase scenes, and the extended scenes of Pranav and his parents. Use the time you have gained by expanding the scenes with Jagapati so we can understand what is happening on that side of things. And shorten the movie overall by about 20 minutes, it’s supposed to be an edge-of-your-seat thriller, I shouldn’t be checking my watch.
(SO MUCH PARKOUR!!!! Pranav can kind of pull it off, and they clearly brought in an outside stunt guy to help with it, but it still wasn’t even to Tiger Shroff level, and not worth taking up half the movie)
Even with all of that, it would still have flaws. For one thing, it was in structure almost exactly like the last Jeethu Joseph film I saw, Oozham. Cool perfect son with a special skill hangs out with his family. Disaster happens. Sad period of trying to figure out what is happening, victims of the same crime find each other and work things out. And final big clever revenge/action scene that solves all the problems. It’s not a bad structure, but it’s very familiar, and it felt like Jeethu was just going through the motions this time, instead of trying to be inventive. A director doing the exact same things two films in a row is a bad sign for creativity.
For another, there was no emotional grounding behind it. What made Drishyam such an interesting and even great film, was that the twists came naturally out of the established relationships, motivations, personalities, and so on of the characters. More than that, it was a film with a message, about family and trust and not underestimating people. Oozham (the other Jeethu Joseph film I have seen), had that a little bit, with the idea of an NRI son who forgets to appreciate his family back home, loses touch with them, in a sort of larger thematic way. But this movie, there is really nothing.
The frustrating thing is, it felt like there was supposed to maybe be SOMETHING. A big deal is made at the end about how Jagapati was Malayali, married into a “Reddy” family (I know this is an important name/cast/group, but I don’t know what it is exactly) and took over their bank. And the staff have secretly been working to take him down and bring the bank back to the Reddys instead of this “Malayali”. At the same time, Pranav our hero traveled from Kerala to Bangalore to make his fortune at that club and it all went wrong. Sharath’s family was happy in Kerala and then borrowed money from a Bangalore bank and now they have lost everything. And so on and so on. There is, potentially, a theme about leaving Kerala and coming to Bangalore, losing everything through an attempt to gain everything, competing with others for limited resources, something something something. But it was completely lost because of the previously mentioned many many parkour scenes.
Oh, and lets take a moment for the pre-parkour character establishment moments. Pranav is not only brave and wonderful and loves his mother, he is also a brilliant musician, who the girl next door has a crush on, who effortlessly gets a chance to sing on stage in the cool club and, most ridiculous, who gets to drive a really cool Rolls Royce car for literally NO REASON!!!!! I kept waiting for that to be a plot point, but it isn’t! He is just driving the car for us to see him driving the car, nothing else. The only plot point that comes back is the girl next door with the crush, the awesome musical skills, cool car, even the group of friends who all adore and believe in him, none of it comes back. It is just there to make him look awesome.
(Oh, ick. He wrote this song himself. That explains why it was so strangely terrible. And in English)
Gah, it is just SO FRUSTRATING! Because the thing is, Pranav isn’t even that untalented. He just isn’t ready to be the lead of a film. He has an easy dialogue delivery and a nice neutral screen presence, but that is all. He should be playing Sharath’s role and Sharath should be playing his. Or he should be playing the lead, but a lead in a different movie with more of an ensemble feel. For instance, Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela would have been a great first film for him. A family movie with an ensemble around him to help carry the weight. Do two or 3 films like that, and then do a film like this. When you are ready for it. Not when the whole world of the film has to turn around in order to make it work.