Monday Malayalam: Aadhi Review (SPOILERS), Lots of Sparkle No Soul

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.


24 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Aadhi Review (SPOILERS), Lots of Sparkle No Soul

  1. I’m intrigued by the random inclusion of inappropriate automobiles in South Asian movies (or all movies, for that matter). We’ve got the Rolls Royce in this one and, for example, Hrithik’s London car (whatever it is) in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. Why doesn’t anybody drive a Ford Focus like the character would be able to afford in real life?


    • There’s a whole globalization thing here, it used to be the Ambassador car was the height of luxury in Indian film, but as more and more western media products started coming in, suddenly the rich person fantasy became having these imported cars.

      On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 8:39 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. Pingback: Box Office: Padman Floods Theaters | dontcallitbollywood

  3. I think this is the second star kid launch vehicle kind of movie in malayalam after Fahadh Faasil (Son of Faasil director of Manichithrathazhu etc). Dulquer’s debut was low key most of the actors and crew where new comers and sunny wayne who was also debuting in it had a big role. Prithviraj debut in a heroine oriented movie and indrajith debut was as villain. Fahadh Faasil debut was big flop (That film had Mammootty in cameo and was directed by his father himself) and he was considered as one of the worst actors back then, he didnt act for another 8 years went to study acting and came book and took small roles initially before doing hero roles Fahadh Faasil is the actor who I have ever seen that has improved this much from one of the worst performance in debut to one of the best actors

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is what bothers me! With this screen count and this kind of a film, Pravan is set up for a guaranteed good launch. Which means there will be nothing to encourage him to go and work hard and try to be a better actor. If he had at least a semi-level playing field, he would be a better actor. I kind of feel the same way about Varun in Hindi. Personally, I think he has the seeds of a really great actor in him, but his early success means he lost out on the time to experiment and learn and become that great actor.

      On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 12:03 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. I watched Aadhi this week, my first movie in the cinemas in ages! I actually liked it, it was infinitely better than Oozham, though quite similar. My biggest grouse with Oozham was actually Prithviraj – he looked really detached and was just going through the motions. Also, with this and Adam Joan, he seems to be in auto pilot mode.

    Aadhi didn’t really need all that Mohanlal referencing, and like you said, more time should’ve been spent on the second half. I actually thought Jeethu spent time on the other characters as well – Anusree was great, Sharaf was good and so was the hacker (Tony Luke). He was awful in Oozham and took me a while to realize was the same person. And Adithi Ravi was meh – felt the character could’ve been better written.

    The random Rolls Royce thing was I think advertising for the Confident group (whose CEO also makes an appearance!) – that was just soooo random. Jeethu Joseph in his interview said this was an expensive movie and so I guess they went the route of in-movie advertising lol 😀


    • Oh, that explains SO MUCH!!!! The CEO character was set up as so awesome and kind and wise and so on, and I kept waiting for it to have a bigger plot meaning, but no. I guess he is just wise and generous and kind for no reason.

      On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 12:23 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Yep! CEO came across as the best human being ever with a halo on his head 😀
        You’re right, Pranav needs to experiment rather than have movies that protect him. His mistakes and learning should happen sooner than later. Else it will be a Ranbir Kappor repeat, where the mistakes are coming at a point when the stakes are higher.


        • Or you can look at Hrithik, the most successful of the star kids with the big launch. His career is still good, but he is never going to break through to the true top of the list if he keeps making “safe” movies at the rate of one a year. Right now, I think that is the track Ranbir is on, people will pay attention to anything he does, but he can’t guarantee a hit or control the industry unless he starts working more and in a greater variety of riskier films.

          On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 12:41 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • I always thought Vivek did that well initially – did so many different roles and reasonably well. But look where that landed!


          • True! I’m going to say that proves our point. The non-star kid path is so reliable, that even someone with terrible PR sense (although a fair amount of talent) can do well on it. Imagine how well someone like Ranbir would be doing today if he had chosen that path!

            On Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 12:53 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

  6. Be assured that star-kid or not, a below-average actor-especially one who seems disinterested-will not survive in Malayalam industry. Pranav may have had his first film designed around/for him. But he will not have that for every film. Insider info-he didn’t really want to ‘act’ but because he wasn’t doing anything else, daddy & co pushed him into this. He didn’t do any media interaction or any appearance to promote the movie. Unlike DQ, Prithvi or Fahad, his heart isn’t set on films.I will be very surprised if he makes it beyond 3 films.


  7. Did you know that Pranav’s maternal grand father (and uncle) are famous Tamil Film producers? Would it explain the kind of opening it received in the US?

    I did watch your box office video, and it was so good! I just hope that somebody in the media in Kerala finds it and exposes them!


    • Glad you liked the video! And I wouldn’t be surprised if the wide release was partly because of Pranav’s family connections. At least because they would know enough to know to lean on the distributors to guarantee this kind of release, instead of just letting them do whatever they wanted with the film.


  8. Reddy’s are one (arguably the most) of the richest, most powerful (in politics) and most influential Telugu communities. I haven’t seen the movie, but Reddy reference here could be a nod to the fact that Jagapathy Babu is a Telugu actor. He was never a major star, but he consistently made movies with guaranteed results. He was at his peak during the 90’s where he played the family hero type – with household settings and interesting female characters. Aaina was remade in Telugu with Jagapathy playing Jackie’s role (Ramya Krishna played Amrita Singh’s role, just saying). I can’t recollect the movie name, but where Sri Devi ‘sells’ her husband to Urmila – he was the male lead in the original. Both movies were massive hits. So in 2000’s he continued his family comedies, dabbled in action. But nothing matched his 90’s fame, although he was consistently praised for his performances. He started appearing in supporting/ negative roles (He played Mahesh’s dad in Srimanthudu) which are much better received and he says in interviews that he enjoys this versatility.
    You should watch Anukokunda Oka Roju, one of the few good Telugu thrillers where Jagapathy plays a quirky corrupt cop.


    • Does the Telugu community have much influence in Bangalore? That’s probably a stupid question, but I know Bangalore is originally Kannada, and there is a huge Malayali community now, but I’ve never heard about a Telugu connection.


  9. I went with least expectations but really enjoyed the film.It was a good entertainer.And pranav wasnt bad at all.a better debut performance than dulquer or fahad. And action scenes were the best ever for a malayalam film.You need to consider the budget constraints for a malayalam movie before comparing it with bollywood or world films.
    Its a blockbuster here and the only big hit of the year so far.Other films with great reviews(carbon and heyjude) failed in boxoffice.


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