This was a ridiculous movie. I only watched it because there was a problem with Soorma and we couldn’t get tickets. But it was interesting, as a reminder that not every Malayalam movie, even the ones with the top tier cast, are that good.
I was looking for an explanation of why this is a bad movie, and there just isn’t one. First time director/producer, but she’s a woman, which always makes me optimistic (because women generally have to be so much better and have much superior projects in order to get a chance). And she is an award winning costume designer who has been in the industry for over a decade. A bit of an unusual career path, but not horrible. The writer, Shanker Ramakrishnan, is legitimately good! Wrote Urumi, and a Kerala Cafe segment. And of course the cast was top notch, Prithviraj and Parvathy, arguably the top actor and actress in the industry both in fame and in talent.
And yet, the movie is terrible! In an enjoyably laughable way, I still had a great time with it. If I was stuck watching a movie because I had driven all the way out to the theater only to discover the movie I wanted wasn’t playing, this was a good enough movie to watch. Especially since I was watching it with my friend Dina and moviemavengal and we were able to laugh through the whole thing.
A lot of what we were laughing at was Parvathy and Prithviraj. Which feels wrong, because they are such good actors and are taking their roles sooooooooooooooooo seriously. But sometimes it doesn’t matter how good an actor you are and how seriously you take the role, it is still just a baaaaaaaaaaad movie.
It’s a bad movie about making movies, so that was fun for me, to get that little glimpse into how the film world saw film. For instance, for them, someone whose destiny is to be a movie star has the greatest most important mission in the world. And nothing must interfere with it. Also, working on a film shoot is the hardest work you could do. And being a Malayalam movie star gives you almost limitless power no matter where you go in the world. Until suddenly it doesn’t because the plot requires them to have no power.
Let’s see, what else was fun? Well, here’s a strange thing! Parvathy did her usual spooky chameleon thing, but she was playing two roles, and somehow the two roles looked exactly like each other while still unlike almost anything else she had ever played. How does she DO that???? Prithviraj has a bit of a double role too, gives us youthful Prithviraj with the dopey backpack and flannel shirt, and also sophisticated older Prithviraj with the grey hair and nicely cut jackets. So you can entertain yourself (if you are so inclined) by debating which Prithviraj is the better Prithviraj. Less of a debate with Parvathy, because one of them is so much clearly better than the other.
(This one. Way better than the other one. Prithviraj, I’m not so sure)
Also fun to play “spot the location” in Portugal. Definitely saw some of the same places from Jab Harry Met Sejal. There is clearly a small filming location office in Portugal that is using the Indian connections.
What was not fun was, well, everything else! Including the costumes, which you would think a costume designer turned director would nail. But no, costumes were stupid, plot was stupid, characters were unbelievable, and the whole thing was just the wee bittiest bit regressive. Luckily it was bad in that way where it became laughable, not in that way where it made me angry and distracted.
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This is not a well-done story. Or a very original story. Prithviraj is a young innocent movie star, Parvathy 1 is his first co-star, a famous but temperamental actress. They fall in love, and then her powerful rich fiance tracks them down and takes her away. 20 years later Prithviraj is fabulously famous and successful, but he has never forgotten her. He goes to Portugal to track her down and finds her 20 year old daughter Parvathy 2 who tells him Parvathy 1 is dead. Prithviraj, heartbroken, goes on a journey with the daughter to remember all the time she spent with Parvathy 2 and at the end of it, TWIST!!!! Not only is Parvathy 2 Prithviraj’s daughter, but also Parvathy 1 is still alive! Waiting with delicately greyed hair and glasses to finally go on the cruise they planned together all those years ago.
It’s just got everything! SOOOOO much melodrama!!!! The tragic actress, forced to work from a young age, turned to alcohol to feel alive, just needs a good decent man to take care of her. The evil all powerful businessman Ganesh Venkatraman. The secret daughter. The sophisticated and all powerful modern day male movie star that women swoon over. Secret elopements, magical cabins, breaking in to theaters to have dramatic moments on stage, and on and on and on. You can predict every little moment of the plot because you have seen it all before.
(Even the little “don’t speak!” hand gesture is totally predictable)
And, depressingly, some of it has not changed. Parvathy asks Prithviraj a favor at the end of filming in return for making filming smooth and easy for him, he swears he will do whatever she asks if she helps him make his first film a success. And then she asks him to help her go away to Madrid, away from her possessive violent fiance.
It’s obvious that she doesn’t want to marry this guy, he is funding the movie, her father is a drunk who is throwing them together, everyone from the director down to the lowliest crew member knows that she is being sold off in return for the movie. And Prithviraj saw him brutally beating up some guy in a back room of his house. But the movie treats it as “childish romantic Parvathy trying to run away” instead of as “grown woman trying to escape from an abusive partner, as is her legal right.” Since it is more the first than the second, naturally Prithviraj finds Ganesh and tells him what is happening and convinces him to let her go so she will “get it out of her system”.
I realized what it is while I was puzzling over how Parvathy is treated in this movie, and how easily people are forgiven for mistreating her. It’s not that she is treated as a child, children are treated better than this. No, she is treated as a pet. If she runs away, you just yank on her leash and drag her back and she will forget what you did soon enough. If she is miserable and doesn’t love you, give it time, she will forget what she used to feel soon and learn to love you. And you would certainly never steal another man’s dog, would you? Even if she tugged on the leash and whined and cried, you would just assume it was something they were working out between each other. At the most, you would offer some obedience tips, which is what Prithviraj does, suggests to Ganesh that letting Parvathy back will make her return a more obedient and easier to handle wife.
Heck, the big romantic first meeting between Prithviraj and Parvathy is their first scene together, when Prithviraj’s character grabs her hand and declares she is “my woman, forever”. Blech!!!!!! And then, like, SHE IS!!!! She romantically confesses that she fell in love with him at first sight half way through their escape trip, and sure enough 20 years later she is still waiting for him. Despite him selling her out to Ganesh, despite him not bothering to check up on her for 20 years, she is still “his”.
That not checking on her for 20 years really really bothered me. Prithviraj has a change of heart after Parvathy confesses her love, they have sex, and then he tries to convince her to change the plan (because he already told that plan to Ganesh), and last minute takes her on the run in a stolen taxi. And then Ganesh finds them and Prithviraj has to hand her over? Like she is the taxi he stole? If Ganesh can find her, he gets to keep her? Parvathy goes back because she wants him to keep funding the movie for Prithviraj to get his launch, which doesn’t really make sense either. I mean, yes, sure, have her go back to make sure the movie is completed. But once it is over and released, just leave the jerk! It’s not like he is blackmailing her, like he still has something to hold over her. Instead, it’s saying that her word is her bond, she has to stay with that promise even though it was extracted by force. And Prithviraj, he knows she is miserable with Ganesh, knows she loves him, and just asks Ganesh not to tell her that he (Prithviraj) betrayed her. How about calling the authorities to rescue this kidnapped woman???? How about waiting until your movie comes out and you are successful and then going back and getting her?
(The best he can do is just wander around their love shack with visions of past her, before she “belonged to another man”)
But, nooooooooooo! None of that is possible, because a marriage is forever and it means that she belongs to Ganesh and it would be wrong to interfere. Parvathy can’t leave him, and Prithviraj can’t take her away, as soon as they made that deal.
Except, it’s not forever! Even within the internal logic of the film, this doesn’t hold up. Because we learn that the marriage ended after 4 years. So, if Prithviraj had, like, bothered to google her, he would have known she was single again. Or she could have called him and said “Hey, I finally got free of horrible Ganesh, want to pick up where we left off?”
Oh! That brings me to the other thing! Parvathy 1 is introduced as the most famous and beloved actress in 4 industries, clearly a Sridevi/Savitri kind of figure. Acting since she was a child, super popular, blah blah blah. And then apparently she can be married off to a random Portuguese millionaire and there is no press coverage or anything. And she just disappears, and no one in the media ever tracks her down, finds out what happened to her, writes an article that Prithviraj might read which says she is divorced? And then here’s Prithviraj, can’t even go to Portugal without some random desk clerk recognizing him and talking about how important his films were to her.
Let’s talk about Prithviraj’s career! He is introduced as a young man asking his friend, a production assistant, to introduce him to a director. He is first introduced to Bhadran who is working on Spadikam, just to situate us in time. Bhadran says he doesn’t have anything now, but Prithviraj should use his name to go meet another director. And that director meets him once and offers him the lead role in his next picture, opposite Parvathy 1. So, essentially, his struggle involved asking an old friend back home to introduce him to someone, who introduced him to someone else, and then he was the lead actor in a movie. So, like, 15 minutes of struggle.
And then for the rest of the film we hear about how Prithviraj is sooooooooooo talented and soooooooooo important, and he struggled and struggled and wanted this so much and Parvathy had to sacrifice her whole life’s happiness to make sure he had the career he deserved, and Prithviraj was so noble to be willing to give up his career to be with Parvathy. WHAT STRUGGLE????? We saw NONE of that!!!!! And really, we didn’t see anything that made it seem like he really wanted the career either, no brilliant acting performance, no desperate struggle with the script, no intense conversations with the director over his motivation, NOTHING!
And meanwhile here’s Parvathy, who is doing all of that, and who is supposed to be this brilliant famous actress, but she doesn’t “want” it, she is just forced into acting, it’s all sad and tragic. And that’s what we are supposed to believe? Male stars work hard and want it and deserve to be famous and their careers are super important to, like, The World. Female stars are forced into it and can just fade away and be forgotten, they owe nothing to the world besides babies and marriage. Lovely! (sarcasm)
Oh, and then there’s Parvathy 2. Who is all modern with short hair and casual slang and so on, and goes clubbing and dances with black boys (side-note: that is such a terrible trope. I had a friend growing up who was a goodish kid with a good Mom, and he had this really impressive girlfriend in high school and we were all like “she’s so nice, that’s so great, I hope he treats her well”, and then it hit us like 2 months in “oh, she’s just using him to rebel against her parents. This isn’t a real relationship for her at all”. It’s just a scuzzy thing to do to the nice boy who thinks this is a real thing when actually you are just acting out!). Clearly she needs a father in her life! Because all girls just need fathers, right?
It’s just, ICK!!! The exact same kind of pseudo-Fruedian nonsense that films have been peddling for 100 years, fragile women who sacrifice themselves, men’s careers and accomplishments are always more important, women belong to the men they belong to not to themselves, and a girl just needs a father.