Monday Malayalam (on Tuesday): Pullikkaran Staraa, What We Expect Versus What Is

Not a great movie.  Really pretty flawed.  But pleasant, and with nice chemistry between the leads, and once again proof that Mammootty really really knows how to pick age appropriate scripts.  And also how to age gracefully, he is playing at least 10 years younger than his real age and I can believe it.

I am NOT recommending this movie.  There is a nice idea at the center of it, but the execution is deeply deeply flawed.  Plot ideas picked up and dropped, confusing moments scene by scene, feels like a general idea that was new and then smaller scene ideas randomly grabbed from the back of the desk and thrown together.  It’s to the point that there is a framing device introduced at the opening, supposedly this is a story being told to one person, and then that person and framing device never appear again.

But still, the central idea is so nice.  And it has the Malayalam pleasant songs and scenery and experienced performers to help carry it.  So it wasn’t torture to watch, especially while I was multitasking, blogging and doing dishes and stuff at the same time.  And it was definitely fun to think about how it could be recast within the Hindi industry.  But I wouldn’t recommend it as fun to watch just on its own.

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The cast is good, but then the cast is almost always good in Malayalam films, so that’s not really worth mentioning.  Mammootty is confident and easy onscreen.  Almost too easy, he sort of just runs through his dialogues and is automatically charming and charismatic without bothering to try.  He never seems to work for anything in this movie.

Asha Sarath is similarly easy and doesn’t seem to be working too hard.  Not that there is much to work with, half of her most important scenes take place off screen and are just reported by Mammootty.  Most of the time she is simply listening to his dialogue and then responding to it, instead of really saying anything for herself.

And the third part of the triangle, Deepti Sati, she actually has something to work with in her character.  Not much, but something.  The film still avoids any big dramatic interesting scene in favor of strange circular conversations, but her character has slightly more development than the others.  It has to, there is no plot if everyone just remains the same as they were at the start, so one of the people involved has to move, and Deepti was the one chosen in this film.  She impressed me with her ability to make me care (slightly) and move the plot (slightly) despite a totally lack of any script support.  I would watch something else with her.

As for the rest of it, pleasant songs none of which I can remember an hour later, pretty visuals ALSO none of which I can remember an hour later, and dialogue that I didn’t enjoy even at the time and certainly can’t remember now.

(What is happening here?  I don’t know, but it is a pleasant time pass)

But none of that takes away from the kernal of a good idea within the film, that sometimes the romance that makes no sense is the most sensible of all, and sometimes we cause our own destruction by running away from what we want and towards what we “should” want.

 

 

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We start with a completely needless, elaborate, and confusing set-up.  Mammootty’s father was a soldier, returned home long enough to father Mammootty and his younger brother and then died.  Mamootty as a newborn grabbed at a nurse’s chest and got the name of being “naughty”.  I think perhaps his given name also sounded like something naughty, not sure since it is a Malayalam movie and they didn’t subtitle it well.  And then as a little boy he chased a bird into a tree and was accused of peeping on the woman bathing below, picked up a bra that had fallen off a line into the dirt, and got even more of a bad name.  His younger brother was married off, but Mammootty is still single and distrusted by the community.  So much so that when his niece wanted to go for a visit at his place, her mother refused to allow it because of she didn’t trust him.  But the niece said it was because of the stories he told that she liked going (I think.  Again, dodgy subs).

So, that’s an odd bad mixture.  On the one hand, the character backstory of a nice man who is always being misunderstood and therefore is still single.  And on the other hand, seemingly a framing device, inserting the niece for no particular reason just so he can tell this story to her.  But then it never comes up again?  So maybe I am misunderstanding the whole thing?  Anyway, it is poorly done.  And also pointless.

The movie really starts with Mammootty in the city riding around with his friends.  They are teasing him/talking to him about still being single.  He smiles and seems fine with it.  And then they encourage him to go sit next to and talk with a woman on the bus, Asha Sarath.  Only for him to be embarrassed when he sees that she is in the teacher’s training course he is about to start teaching.  And then further confused when he recognizes her as the little girl he had a crush on in school.

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It all sounds very neat and clear the way I am saying it, but it isn’t presented that way on film AT ALL.  The childhood sweetheart plot point drops in out of nowhere, it’s not clear when exactly he recognized her, or if he is even telling a true story or just making it up.  It’s also not clear if his friends have just started bothering him about getting married now or if this is a long running argument.  Many things are confusing!

And then it’s even more confusing when he first meets Deepti Sati.  I followed the basics of him noticing her on the train, observing her reunion with her lover, and then observing her broken heart and saving her from jumping (or at least considering jumping).  But I’m not clear on if he took her back to his apartment, or if she was coincidentally going to visit her uncle there anyway.  Maybe she is the niece from the opening and her uncle who tells stories is just telling her this story?

Image result for pullikkaran staraa

I can say it in a neat and clean way, that Mammootty saves a broken hearted woman after a failed elopement and takes her home to his apartment block and cheers her up and distracts her, but all the little details in how the film presents it are very very fuzzy.

The end result of all of this is a really nice love triangle situation.  Mammootty is a little shy and unable to be his real self around Asha.  But we see him with Deepti constantly, laughing with her and talking with her and revealing all his weaknesses. It’s because they are so different that they get along so well.  Deepti gives Mammootty some of her youthful confidence and hope, and Mammootty gives her some of his mature wisdom and security.

I wish it had been executed better, because that kernel of an idea is completely lost in random speeches about education, a bus accident action scene, and a TV interview for no particular reason.  And even the scenes where it should really shine kind of go nowhere.  There is a conversation between Mammootty and Deepti as they watch the rain, her encouraging him to go out into it, and him saying that he wants to but knows it wouldn’t be wise, if that were written and performed and filmed better it would turn into a really touching conversation about how they both want to take the leap into this impossible romance, but she won’t go without him and he doesn’t think it would be wise.  Only, it’s not done well, so it just turns into a random conversation about rain.

In the same way Mammootty impulsively invites her to go on a weekend trip with him.  After a school trip with Asha.  It should feel to the audience like he is finally breaking free a little, giving in to his wishes to be alone with her, before suddenly pulling back when he invites the wife of one of his friends to join them.  But instead it just feels like a random few lines of dialogue that are then forgotten.

This goes back to what I was saying about the performances.  Deepti does a good job because she has something to work with, a cocky young woman slowly softening and getting intrigued by this world of the sweet older man, until she becomes unsure of herself and not knowing if he wants her the way she wants him.

But Mammootty, he SHOULD have a really great interesting character to work with.  The older man who finds love but runs from it.  It should be his performance in Kandukonden Kandukonden all over again.  I want to feel that internal conflict, the sense of guilt because Asha is the one he should be with, the secret relief when he learns she is married, the moments when he stops thinking and gives into impulse and is just happy with Deepti.  Even the secret sadness as he arranges Deepti’s reunion with her boyfriend.  And I get NONE of that.  Oh well.  At least the film started with a good idea, even if it didn’t end up well.  That’s more than you can say for a lot of movies.

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam (on Tuesday): Pullikkaran Staraa, What We Expect Versus What Is

    • Not much of a chance. I think moviemavengal was planning to watch it, but it was playing at the theater 5 minutes from her house which is 2 hours from my house, so I couldn’t make it. And it doesn’t look like it is playing anywhere else in the area.

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  1. About the film, I couldn’t stand it – but unfortunately they were playing it during a long bus journey, so I couldn’t opt out. But you made a very good point that Bollywood could’ve made a better movie out of it. Another classic example that comes to mind is the Malayalam movie “Rockstar” (available on einthusan) – would’ve been a really good Hindi movie if ever made!
    Malayalees would not agree with you saying Mammootty picks scripts appropriate for his age. We think he’s way off!
    Here’s an example (copied from https://www.dailyo.in/voices/mammootty-malayalam-cinema-mammookka-kerala-police-roudram-parvathy/story/1/21900.html)
    Aavanazhi (1986)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of a circle inspector of Kerala Police, aged about 40 years.
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive and has oodles of misogyny.
    Inspector Balram (1991)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of a circle inspector of Kerala Police, aged under 40 years.
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive and has oodles of misogyny.
    Godman (1999)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of a Circle Inspector of Kerala Police, aged about 35 years
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive and has oodles of misogyny.
    Roudram (2008)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of an assistant commissioner of Kerala Police, aged under 35 years
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive and has oodles of misogyny.
    Kasaba (2016)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of a circle inspector of Kerala Police, aged about 30 years
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive. And his misogyny has got an upgrade – to the point of grabbing a senior woman IPS officer by her belt and cracking what can only be described as a rape-joke.
    Legend (2026)
    Mammootty plays the lead role, that of a sub-inspector of Kerala Police, fresh out of Police Training College and aged under 25 years
    He is irreverent, insubordinate, short-tempered, abusive and has oodles of misogyny.
    Please note, we criticize him because we’d like him to take up roles appropriate of his age. And every time he does that, the movie does well invariably (Pathemari, Varsham, Munnariyippu, etc)

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    • Well age isn’t explicitly mentioned in any of these movies. Writer just assumed its descending may be beacause he keeps his body fit (due to a very strict lifestyle )

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      • Or, like the blog suggests, the “Benjamin Button of Malayalam films” 🙂

        The idea was to show how he’s NOT taking up roles appropriate for his age!

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        • The films u mentioned are investigative crime thrillers and he isn’t wooing any girl in any of them. His age isn’t mentioned . So not sure how they are age inappropriate roles. Not saying he isn’t doing any crap movies. Last 6-7 years were the worst phase in his career. But he is doing 6-8 films per year and most of them are directed by newcomers.some films work, some don’t. Most of the acclaimed newgen directors now had their first film with him. So i don’t think generalizing all his movies as poor or age inappropriate is’nt fare. He still managed to get into the final rounds of national awards twice in this period.

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        • Mainly because of the subject it handled. Moral policing is a really big issue in kerala and incidents like in the film have been reported in real many times. But not many films have addressed this issue. Film could have been better but the intense climax and an interesting and age appropriate role for mammootty made me ignore some of the flaws

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  2. Honestly, how did you manage to watch the entire movie? I tried watching it and switched off the TV after about 30 minutes. It was a torture. But then your Hindi version of it sounds much much better, maybe this should have been made in Hindi. But I don’t think anyone is going to do that now, considering the huge flop ‘Pullikaran Stara’ was in Malayalam.

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  3. Margaret, Deepti Sati was part of the love-triangle in Nee-Na too. If you are interested you can watch it, but it’s not a must-watch. It’s another good idea and so-so execution movie (but still better than Pullikaran Stara I think)

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