(Written by guest contributor Unni)
It is said that older the wine, better the quality. However, it is rare that the quality of a movie (roughly judged by the money it rakes at the BO), gets better if it warms the producer’s “petti” for a long long time.
Not a lot was expected from Vadakkumnathan – its central theme was not a “safe” subject – action/comedy. It was a family movie, with oodles of sentiments with music/Sanskrit playing a major role. Not even the fact that it had a super star, was enough to fetch a distributor (Ask Joshi..oops Joshiey..how his late comer “Dubai” fared) . Not even the fact that it had the last compositions of one of the finest music composers in Malayalam.
On the contrary it had everything going against it – the director never had any hits to his credit; the script-writer was not exactly a script-writer; he was more known for his lyrics. Finally a distributor took the gamble and released the movie. He was not left disappointed.
The first-half of Vadakkumnathan is told in flash-back mode – a mother (Kaviyoor Ponnamma as Rukmavathy Amma) and son(Biju Menon as Prabhakaran) come to Haridwar to submerge the ashes of their “dead” son in the Holy Ganges (the picturesque locations of Haridwar captured by S Kumar ). The mother is shocked to see the “dead” son take PT lessons on the banks of the Ganga. The son tries to get away but finally the mother convinces him to return home.
Rewind to the past. Iringennoor Bharatha Pisharody (Mohan Lal) is a professor at the Kaladi Sankara and is well-versed in sanskrit, jyothisham and…”koolithallu” (The last mentioned attribute is revealed only at the end). Bharathan – as he is called by all, inspite of being an unforgiving teacher (His punishments would give work to the National Human Rights Commission), eccentricity personified, he is still held in great reverence at his college.
His fiancee (Padmapriya as Meera) adores him even though he repeated ly attempts to ward her off. Other members of Bharathan’s family are his uncles(Babu Namboothri and Murali as Meera’s father), his brother (Shammi Thilakan) and his sister (Kavya Madhavan). Sankaran kutty Maash (Risabava) is Bharathan’s colleague who is jealous of him. Bharathan’s eccentricity takes a turn for the worse and one fine morning, the day before his marriage with Meera, he goes AWOL.
Move over to the present. Bharathan’s return is not welcomed by all – mainly Meera’s father for wrecking his daughter’s life.Soon Bharathan’s family also dont take his antics lightly. Hatred turns to sympathy when they discover that he is a mental patient and suffers from bi-polar disorder.
Mohan Lal suits the role of Bharatha Pisharody to a T. Some of the early scenes, show him to be much slimmer and closely resembling the Lal of olden times. Padmapriya can be slightly accused of overacting in some scenes. But by and large, she has done a fair job. Biju Menon and Kaviyoor Ponnamma play their parts well. Kavya Madhavan and Vineeth come and go in a song and little more. Shammi Thilakan sulks all the time. Risabava has a perpertual smirk on his face.
Shajun Karyal has come a long way from “Sayvar Thriumeni” and “Thachiledathu Chundan“. Girish Puthenchery does a pretty good job of the screen play. The only complaint is that his dialogues suffer from the “Valluvanadan Syndrome “, which has affected the dialogue deliveries of our serial actors today. “Ente Kuttikku nontho”, “Kuttyeee” are samples.
Ravindran’s music is splendid – “Kalabham Tharam” and “Gangee” (which slightly reminds you of “Harimuraleeravam” for its high-pitch, non-stop rendition by Yesudas) are outstanding.
Vadakkumnathan is by no means a great movie. The sentiments look to be jaded. However the packaging has done the trick – projecting Lal as the family man , great songs by the late Raveendran, the scenic beauty/sanctity of Haridwar all have added to the success of the movie; and going by the crowds in the theatres, majority of which are women, the producers can not only look to redeeming their investments but even manage a decent profit.
PS: My friend who watched the movie, asked what the title meant in the context of the movie. I still dont have an answer.