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Review: Naran

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The lone hotel owner in Mullankolli village decides to put a board for his hotel with the name in both Malayalam and Tamil. No, says Velayudhan (Mohanlal), a local thug. A man comes to sell fish which is kind of rotten. The buyers have no problems with it, but the man cannot sell fish, says Velayudhan. When someone challenges him, he beats him to pulp. As his symbol, he puts a stick on the ground, like a totem and challenges anyone to touch it. Apparently Mullamkolli exists in a place where no one has heard of Indian Penal Code and personal freedom.

How can you have heard of it when the place itself is isolated and to get there one has to cross a river by boat. Occasionally there is flooding in the river and trees comes floating down it. Velayudhan’s main job is to jump into the river, collect those trees and sell it for a good income. Though he dictates others on how to run their business, he runs a toddy shop, but it is alright, since there are some rules for the shop, like the Ten Commandments.

Due to Velayudhan’s thuggery, there is law and order in the village and outsiders and insiders seldom do mischief and women are not harassed. He also sleeps in the verandah of a prostitute Kunnil Shanta (Sona Nair), so that she is not troubled. Where else can you find such a lovable thug with a heart of gold other than in such movies. Due to this Velayudhan is loved by a lot of people, including Kelappan’s (Innocent) daughter Leela (Bhavana). He also has an ex-flame, Janaki (Devayani), who got married to ration shop owner Krishnan (Maniyanpillai Raju).

Velayudhan’s mother had come floating in the floods and had given birth to him and floated away. He was taken by Valiya Nambiar (Madhu), the only person whom he respects. Due to Velayudhan’s moral policing, he is hated by the Panchayat Member Kurup (Jagathi Sreekumar) and Nambiar’s son-in-law Gopinathan (Siddique). Both of them try to attack and discredit him many times and many people die, but ultimately the predictable happens.

So what’s so great about the story? Nothing. But there are two things which makes this movie watchable and Mohanlal’s acting is not one of them, for we believe he has done nothing extra ordinary in this movie. If you look at the movie in the context of the superman movies he was acting, this is a more down to earth character. If you remove that context, this is the normal Mohanlal in his usual self doing a good job of this oft repeated character. It is not the story either for we have seen Devasuram and variations of it where a thug gets refined and finally has to switch back to thuggery.

What makes this movie is interesting is Ranjan Pramod’s script. Remember the movie Meesha Madhavan in which he bought into life a village called Cheppu in which the hero was a thief, but had a heart of gold? Mullamkolli is a similar village with a similarly flawed hero. It is the interaction between the villagers that bring this place to life. His script does that beautifully, through small incidents. It is through one scene of people coming to buy those rotten fishes that various characters are introduced. The discussion about the fish and Velayudhan’s activities continue through out the day.

The movie has just the main story and no separate comedy track. Salim Kumar makes a brief appearance, but the trees floating in the wild river got more footage than him. Since there are no diversions, the story focuses on the characters, mainly Velayudhan, Kelappan, Leela, Gopinathan, Kurup and Janaki. The hatred that Gopinathan has for Velayudhan is built up slowly in the first half, and it blooms fully in the second half.

Still it does not mean that there is a lack of cliched scenes. The scene were Velayudhan intervenes in Leela’s marriage proposal and gets insulted by Kelappan seems to be a staple in such good hearted fellow type movies. The character played by Madhu is one of the typical cardboard characters in Malayalam films. Other than some boring dialogue, Madhu does not get to do much.

The second aspect which makes this movie a better one than others of this genre is Joshi’s direction. If you have seen the water bombing of boats in an old movie called Sangham and the major fight in the paddy fields following it and have seen New Delhi, you know the technical capabilities of director Joshiey. In this movie there are many underwater scenes of retrieving hidden toddy, catching floating trees and the final fight sequence with Siddique. This is a novelty in Malayalam movies and has been captured very well. Joshiey also keeps the scenes very tight and they are edited crisply to avoid boredom.

Siddique shines as Gopinathan. He plays the villain to perfection. He does not give speeches or laugh violently, but does actions which makes you hate him. Jagathi as Kurup does nothing extra-ordinary. Among the women Devayani has a nice role, as the ex-lover of Velayudhan. Bhavana as Leela is abound with energy and gets some decent footage in this macho macho movie. Sai Kumar appears in three scenes as a police officer for a total screen time of approximately 17 seconds.

Deepak Dev shows that he is a brilliant composer by the songs Minnadi Minnadi and Velmuruka but our favourite is Thumpi Kinnaram. On the whole, this is a watchable action movie, though there is nothing great about it. Even if you don’t watch it, at least listen to the songs.

3 Comments

  1. I would say the best song in the movie was the title song – Naran – for its BGM. truly haunting it was!!

    Apart from that, what impressed me was

    * underwater sequences. Ranjan Pramod said in an interview that a lot of the scenes were shot in Hoganikkal waters with all sorts of poisonous things like scorpions and heavy currents

    * Devayani also was good

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