'Pakalum Paathiravum' is a rushed adaptation of an English play

Directed by Ajai Vasudev, 'Pakalum Paathiravum' is Malayalam-language family-friendly action thriller currently streaming on Zee5

'Pakalum Paathiravum' promotional poster (photo courtesy BookMyShow)
'Pakalum Paathiravum' promotional poster (photo courtesy BookMyShow)

Subhash K Jha

Pakalum Paathiravum is a toothless and untruthful crime thriller, with a very Grecian heart transposed not so gingerly into a Malayali landscape.

Imagine a pasta dish marinated in sambhar or maybe ice cream with mango pickles. The violent domesticated mood of the original play—it seems to be inspired by Rupert Brooke's Lithuania—hardly gets a decent portrayal in this lifeless drama filled with a sound of fury, signifying nothing eye-catching.

The play-on-film begins with Michael (Kunchacko Boban) heading towards the Maoist-infested Kerala jungles, where he seeks an overnight staycation with a family suffering from acute insolvency. The main conflict is between the daughter of the family, Mercy (Rajisha Vijayan), and Michael, as she discovers he is a wealthy sod and could be her getaway from her current life of hopeless wretchedness.

Vijayan has done some significant work in recent years. She is capable of shouldering a film, but not one which has no limbs to support itself. Pakalum Paathiravum’s Greek ambitions remain dully delineated in a film filled with noisy violence and a hint of incest that reminded me of the old Dev Anand classic Bambai ka Babu.

The 'Babu' here, as played by Boban, turns out to be a do-gooder whose naivete can only be compared in extent with the greed of the family that hosts him for the night. The narrative tumbles into the troubled past of the family with a mechanical trigger-point flip that leaves the audience completely unmoved.

But I liked Rajisha Vijayan in a thankless role. She comes to grips with her slippery character and overcomes the hurdles of sloppy, inept writing. But poor Guru Somasundaram. After Minnal Murali, he slips into a role so crude, leery and unidimensional that even Marlon Brando would be nonplussed.

There is a moving performance by Manoj K.U. as Mercy’s father. His anguished helplessness reaches his eyes in spite of a script which seems to have no respect for its characters. The breakneck speed breaks the plot’s neck—splitting the bizarre storytelling into many fragments of emotions that do not cohere into any kind of substantial statement on greed and retribution.

The wilderness and the jungles in the plot hide many secrets. None of them manifest themselves into any kind of rewarding experience for us, the spectators.

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