The movie is set into motion when a large cache of arms is discovered in the land belonging to the local businessman Hussein Sahib (Risabava). On investigation, Inspector Varma (Mukesh) finds that Hussein Sahib has no idea about this, but the land was used by someone called Anali Bhaskaran. The Inspector, along with his colleagues Sudhakaran (Jagadeesh) go to arrest Bhaskaran, but they are given a good fight. As the police are being beaten, the screen alternates between a police jeep appearing on the scene and Anali Bhaskaran trying to knife people. Suddenly a hand appears in the scene and beats Bhaskaran. The camera, in a ritual symbolic of us doing pradakshniam around the deity goes around the body to which the hand is attached and reveals the face of Inspector Balram.
He is still the same no-nonsense, arrogant person who follows his heterodox ways of investigation. The only difference is that he does not use much four letter words, or in the case of Malayalam, two letter words much. Anali Bhaskaran reveals under interrogation that Hussein Sahib’s son Salim is involved in this. Hussein Sahib says that his son left the house sometime back and he has no idea where he is. Then at this point it starts raining characters as if it is the start of monsoon season.
In a span of few minutes we get three villains, MLA Rani (Vani Vishwanath), a DGP, Balram’s boss (Devan), DYSP George (Siddique), Policewoman Dakshayani (Kalpana), a Chief Minister, a minister called Mustafa, Srini (Srinivasan), the editor of a yellow journal, and a policeman called Ummar (Augustine). While were were figuring out who was who in this, Balram concludes that Tharadas was behind all this and the scene switches to Dubai.
If Balram got a Rajnikanth style introduction, then according to the Newton’s third law, Tharadas too has to get one. So we see one of his associates insulting a person, bad mouthing Tharadas and walking away. Then in the corridor he sees a faint human figure far away. The camera jerks and jerks and reveals Tharadas, dressed so well that we would think he was on his way to a photo shoot when he decided abruptly to beat a few people. As if this visual was not suffice, there was an electric guitar playing loudly in the background as if someone old the guitar player that he would get paid based on the number of random sounds he could make from the instrument.
After beating his associate, Tharadas meets the minister Mustafa (who seems like a Kunjalikutti clone) and does some business. He also wants a favor from the minister. He wants a ring to be passed to his girlfriend Supriya (Katrina Khaif) who is an actress. Once the people and linkages are established, the game is set in motion in an even faster pace. Balram concludes that the only way to trap Tharadas is to arrest Supriya. As expected Tharadas lands in Kerala and takes on Balram and it drives rest of the story.
The film has two script writers, S N Swamy and T Damodaran. Both these people famous for writing many block busters in the eighties seem to be still living in that era where heroes and villains shouted at each other pointing guns at each others head. When Tharadas first lands his Kerala, he walks straight into the police station looking for Balram. They both stare at each other and then Balram takes his gun and points at Tharadas. Tharadas in a scene, seen only in cartoon films, puts his hands on the barrel of the gun to block the bullet and says some hard hitting dialogue. Luckily the intermission was announced at this time, else the movie would have been over by the middle.
It is not just this one encounter they have. Both Balram and Tharadas meet many times in the second half and scream at each others face. Once Balram walks into Tharadas’ house and shouts, “You are a bloody murderer and arms dealer and…” of that sort. They meet in airports, jails and all the time they talk and part. The aim for both it seems is to subdue the other with dialogue, a la Suresh Gopi style. All this would look great in a temple festival stage drama, but not in a movie. In this whole movie, except for a couple of action scenes, you could turn of the visual and listen to it as a radio drama.
And what happened to Tharadas, the man who smilingly said his occupation was “Smuggling” in Athirathram. It turns out he is a nice guy in this movie and he was wronged by the villains. He is not vicious or dangerous. He is just a romantic who loves to wear designer clothes and ride trendy bikes. Oh! what a let down. His wig, which seems to have a life of its own in various scenes has more personality than Tharadas.
One of the interesting points in Athirathram was the relationship between the characters played by Mohanlal, Seema and Mammotty. There is no such emotional twist in this plot. There is no suspense, no twists or anything in the story and it is a plain straightforward narration.
Since there are too many characters and due to the fast cutting, there is no time to establish any character in the movie. . Some people like Kunjan and Srinivasan probably got less than 3 minutes of screen time, much less than the wig. The characters in the movie don’t have any depth and it looks like a bunch of cardboard characters moving on screen. Then when you complain of such lack of depth, it is shown that Inspector Varma’s family is in poverty and we are like what has that to do with the story?
The only character which is interesting in the movie is Balram, but still he comes nowhere close to the Balram in Avanazhi and Inspector Balram. He too has toned down. But he gets lot of screen time to display his anger against everyone and everything. Mammotty has performed well as this character to make up for a lackluster Tharadas.
I.V.Sasi’s concept of big blockbuster movie seems to be to fill in with all possible actors on screen and have a few car and boat chases. It does not work in 2006. When Athirathram was released the only channel on TV was Doordarshan. Now people have options to see well made Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English movie and the expectations have gone up for action movies. There is a boat chase in the movie where Blaram chases Salim in the ocean. They both start in one location, circle the bay and park back in the shore like two tourists on a sightseeing trip. The boat chase in Athirathram had more punch.
Lot of money was blown up on this movie and it would have been better if the screenplay which they filmed was thrown out and a new one written. The concept of the movie was interesting, but the execution was poor. The other saving grace of the movie are the two songs by Jassie Gift.
Now we hear that they are planning a sequel called Balraminte Makan with Prithviraj in the title role. We hope the film makers make a short tight movie instead of such wasteful extravaganzas or get new script writers like Padmakumar, Renjith or Ranjan Pramod.