Prithviraj disappoints. Then again I am back from watching Mohanlal’s Chinatown, so disappointment needs to be understood as occurring when there is hope left. Mohanlal cannot disappoint me anymore. Prithvi loses control at critical junctures in the movie. This is the same actor who gave extrememly controlled performances in Vasthavam and Thalappavu, but he loses it occasionally in “Urumi”.
A movie is much more than a screenplay or a story, and if the whole purpose of a movie is to tell a story, a novel or a short story would suffice, and when it comes to M.T. I wonder whether M.T.’s screenplays rise above turning the emotional knob. As someone put it, there is a distance between M.T.s Snow (Manju) and Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, a distance which some of us love to forget.
‘Urumi’ is an interesting new movie in the theatres which seems to have divided public opinion right down the middle. I am reviewing a movie here after a long time, and Urumi is a good pick because I am not a fence-sitter on this one. Even after discounting for a group of young people who would cry foul of any Prithviraj movie (‘avanu enthoru jadayanu’), and another group of people who are still stuck in the Mammooty, Mohanlal, Gopi era of superstars (fact is there are 3 super stars even today – Mammooty, Dileep, and Prithviraj), there still seems to be a good chunk of people who watched the movie and genuinely disliked it.
For a start, I really liked the movie, and this was after watching it with pretty high expectations (because I expected Santosh Sivan and Prithviraj to have come a long way from ‘Ananthabhadram’, a movie produced by Manian Pilla Raju. I was right on the former, and a bit let down on the latter). That said, ‘Urumi’ is refreshingly new, technically brilliant attempt in Malayalam cinema which ranks much high above ‘Pazhassiraja’ and a tad below ‘Veeragadha’. It is a must watch in a field muddled by Christian Brothers, China Town, August 15, and Makeup Man. The movie ranks alongside Traffic, and Pranchiyettan as one of the good movies that will define the current so-called ‘Golden Age’ of malayalam cinema.
The camera follows a warrior Kelu Nayananar (Prithvi) as he tries to avenge the death of his father in the hands of Vasco Da Gama. Vavvali (Prabhudeva) and Arackal Aisha (Genelia) make up the supporting ensemble, and Jagathy Sreekumar delivers one of his finest till date as the machiavellian Chenichery Kurup. The constant theme of the movie is revenge, royal intrigue, and sea trade, served around the sounds of deep mysticism and at times haunting background score.
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Story, Screenplay, and a movie: As a period drama, “Urumi” cannot but avoid comparisons with two of M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s works, ‘Veeragadha’ and ‘Pazhassiraja’.Often times we assume that a movie is for telling a story, and we have our own assumptions like all of M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s screenplays are classics. Both these assumptions lack the support of facts. A movie is much more than a screenplay or a story, and if the whole purpose of a movie is to tell a story, a novel or a short story would suffice, and when it comes to M.T. I wonder whether M.T.’s screenplays rise above turning the emotional knob. As someone put it, there is a distance between M.T.s Snow (Manju) and Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, a distance which some of us love to forget.
Case in point,”Urumi” uses much more than just a linear story or screenplay to create a cinematic experience. And the cinematic experience created by “Urumi” is more wholesome than M.T-Hariharan team’s “Pazhassiraja”, in that the different parts of the movie including screenplay, dialogues, casting, cinematography, editing, and background score gel together much more seamlessly than “Pazhassiraja”. And unlike “Pazhassiraja”, the elements are not siloed, nor customized for an aging super star. One fine example is how the songs in “Urumi” flows with the pace of the movie, and those in Pazhassi jutt out.
In terms of dialogues, “Vadakkan veeragadha” has few comparisons in malayalam cinema, and while Urumi does not hit it out of the park, the movie does not fall flat like ‘Pazhassiraja’. Two key areas where ‘Pazhassiraja’ failed were that the dialogues were uninspiring, lacked the punch, and not a single one was memorable. Secondly, the dialogues in ‘Pazhassi’, both the wording and the delivery were in 21st century malayalam, an area where I feel M.T. compromised. Shankar Ramakrishnan does a commendable job here in terms of weaving in loaded historical facts with a unique dialect and tone, which adds to the mystique of the this historical-fantasy. Weeks after the movie I remember atleast a couple of dialogues – esp one between Arackal Beevi and Ayesha, and the ones between Kelu Nayanar and the Chirackal King, memorable dialogues with a balance of art and adrenalin.
The cinematography, background score, and Jagathy Sreekumar’s performance are notable highlights of Urumi. Santosh Sivan with 6 National Awards under his belt literally mesmerizes with the camera, “Urumi” is a visual treat with at times haunting background score, and a few good songs that go with the flow of the movie. Jagathy Sreekumar plays the part of a machiavellian minister, with his sinister urges, and a feminine side which he cannot conceal. This role could have been totally destroyed if played by anyone else (Suraaj Venjaranmoodu say), but Jagathy romps home with a definite winner. It is sad that you need to play a leading role to win a best actor award. Jagathy deserves it. Santosh Sivan did a fine job in casting Genelia as Arackal Ayesha. The serious effort that has gone into martial arts training reflects in the movie, and Genelia does much better than Prithviraj in that front, and in portraying a character who is threatening from start to end. Prabhu Deva brings in a much needed lightness to the movie, which is almost absent in ‘Pazhassiraja’, though I wonder if his talents were fully utilized.
Prithviraj disappoints. Then again I am back from watching Mohanlal’s Chinatown, so disappointment needs to be understood as occurring when there is hope left. Mohanlal cannot disappoint me anymore. Prithvi loses control at critical junctures in the movie. This is the same actor who gave extrememly controlled performances in Vasthavam and Thalappavu, but he loses it occasionally in “Urumi”. Much of the criticism for “Urumi” seems to stem from Prithvi’s attempts at doing a lot many things together, especially teenagesque comedy at uncalled for places. “Urumi” is a movie where Prithvi wins as a producer, but fails as an actor. Then again the movie is built around the hulking frame of Prithviraj, and the effort he put in to embody the role, and in delivering at times complex dialogues should be appreciated.
Historical inaccuracies can be pointed out, including the death of Gama. But this is a historical-fantasy, and that what it is.(like Tarantino’s Bastards)
Lack of a linear, water tight story line. “Urumi” is not intended to do that. For a water tight screenplay which turns all knobs and fires on all emotional cylinders, one should watch Rangith’s movies like Kayyoppu, Pranchiyettan et al.
“Urumi” is a cinematic experience rarely seen in malayalam cinema, and Prithviaj and Santosh Sivan deserves their share of praise in attempting this second most costly movie in Mollywood.
Verdict: Must Watch. (Do yourselves a favor)
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