Writer-director Ranjith and superstar Mohanlal have had a long working relationship. From writing some of the popular films of Mohanlal like Devasuram, Aaram Thampuran, Narasimham etc Ranjith went on make his directorial debut with Ravanaprabhu featuring Mohanlal. While not all the films from this combination may have worked, some of their films did manage to win the appreciation from both audiences and critics alike. Back in 2012 they came out together with Spirit, winner of the National Award for Best Film on Social Issues. Spirit may not have been the best of Ranjith but nevertheless had its moments and went on to find appreciation at the box office as well. Incidentally this was the last commercial success seen by Ranjith as writer-director, the films he made after that did not really bear his magic like before. Hence it was exciting to hear of the dynamic duo coming back together with Loham: The Yellow Metal.
The film was all the more generating curiosity as Ranjith apparently had confirmed that Loham would see Mohanlal once again in a mass avatar, making his fans go mad with joy. While I was able to watch the First Day First Show of Spirit in Kerala when it released, this time around for Loham I had to make do with a show on the First Day in Mumbai. There have been lots of ifs and buts as to whether Mohanlal at this stage in his career should once again attempt a mass hero film, whether Ranjith really can pull off a Ravanaprabhu sort of film and whether together they could repeat the success of Spirit with Loham. The teaser thankfully looked reasonably good, and it did not look like a mass hero film in the complete sense. Just like Peruchazhi opened up the Onam season last season, this year too Loham has tried to stay ahead of competition by being the first major release for Onam and hence the expectations were even higher. So how has Loham finally shaped up? Is it really another successful outing for Ranjith and Mohanlal? Is it a good commercial film, and has Mohanalal delivered with an out and out larger than life character again? Well these were questions I set out to check when I went to watch Loham.
Loham: The Yellow Metal or simply Loham begins in Kozhikode as we see the dead body of Rafeeq (Mushtaq) being flown in from Dubai. There’s a lot of emotional drama being witnessed as this happens as we see the local MLA (Harish Peradi) there as well and around the same time we have Jayanthi Ramesh (Andrea Jeremiah) land up in Kochi in search of her husband Ramesh (Ashvin.A.Mathew). Ramesh is a customs official who seems to have gone off the radar, leaving Jayanthi worried. Jayanthi hails the services of a call taxi and in comes Raju (Mohanlal) as the driver who loves to talk and is ever helpful. He even ends up making a lovely breakfast for Jayanthi and her mother-in-law (KPAC Lalitha), going on to win Jayanthi’s confidence through the rest of the day. A lot of characters float in & out through the tale and we get to know that the coffin carrying Rafeeq’s dead body contained 100 kgs of gold, which is now missing. What is the connection between Rafeeq and the gold? How is this connected to Jayanthi and her missing husband Ramesh? Who is Raju and what’s his role in the whole gamut of things are all what we get to know as the film progresses.
To be honest the film starts of relatively well, there are lot of good actors in the supporting cast and they help sustain interest for a while. There is some decent level of suspense built up over Ramesh’s disappearance and the confusion over the missing gold certainly promises something as the film progresses further. Mohanlal makes a good impact as the cab driver who is helpful and also someone with a good sense of humour. The interval point though predictable still delivers a punch as we see Mohanlal swinging in action to the strains of “nayak nahin, khalnayak hoon main” 🙂. It is one big moment where the fan boys of the superstar can literally go crazy and you take an interval break thinking the 2nd half is going to be one big action ride all the way. That’s where you get mistaken sadly as things go downhill all the way from there. It’s difficult to actually believe that the writing is actually by someone of the calibre of Ranjith and only when you watch it can you actually believe it.
Way too many characters keep appearing at the drop of a hat, some of them not featuring in more than a scene. It soon becomes clear that Ranjith has got inspired by stories of gold smuggling in the state involving allegedly some big shots, no harm in the same if there’s novelty in the tale. But while a film like Irupatham Nootandu way back in 1987 had captured the aspect of gold smuggling so admirably in the form of a commercial entertainer, now nearly 3 decades later Loham doesn’t really say anything new. Also of late there have been a lot of heist films including 7th Day and Sapthamashree Thaskaraha, both which emerged last year whereby the emphasis is not really on how the heist happens but more on the people involved and a slightly distinct way of keeping the audience hooked by often trying to set up misleading clues or directions. Here too in Loham we have Ranjith trying to make the tale appear way too cool, as we see Raju move around with his gang which includes Alby (Renji Panicker) and Ameer Amanullah (Abu Salim) in a Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock like getup :).
But such films are always about the characters and that’s where Loham fails quite badly. Apart from Raju who is there right through the film, most of the characters are half baked and find no importance in the plot at all. For a team that’s supposed to be super smart and efficient, no one except Renji Panicker in Raju’s team makes an impact. While in case of Sapthmashree Thaskaraha, the spotlight was not always on Prithviraj and the other team members were also well developed, interesting characters, nothing like that over here. The film tries hard to be a cross between a Mankatha, 7th Day and Sapthamashree Thaskaraha, but ends up making a mess of itself thanks to the second half of the film. So many things keep happening, beyond a point you almost cry in desperation as to what’s happening. The so called angle of deceiving the viewers with the secrecy around Raju and his team’s real identity actually is very poorly done; one can easily spot it well before the climax.
Kunjunni S.Kumar’s cinematography is effective, while the songs composed by Sreevalsan J.Menon, look out of place of sorts in a film like this. Of the huge star cast present in the film, quite a few actors are wasted in the film. Siddique, Harish Perady, Suresh Krishna play the standard villains, while Ashvin A. Mathew, Muthumani, KPAC Lalitha, Vijayaragahavan and Renji Panicker are effective. Ajmal Ameer comes across as quite unconvincing as the Tamil speaking businessman aspiring for a political career while Andrea Jeremiah makes her presence felt, especially in the first half. Mythili who also sang the song“Kanaka Mylanchi” (along with Shahabaz Aman) disappears after being seen initially. Mohanlal is the soul of the film and there’s nothing surprising about the same. In the first half of the film it is a treat to watch him in a simple avatar as the cab driver Raju. His mannerisms and dialogue delivery style are simple and effective, but as he gives up the cab driver act to get back to his true form he doesn’t come across as all that convincing.
Amidst all the mayhem generated in the second half even Mohanlal seems to have lost his way around and ends up doing way too many things, most of which make no sense. The climax is not only weak and predictable; it doesn’t give any scope for the wonderful actor to do something remarkable. Ultimately Loham is an attempt which doesn’t really do justice to the kind of talent that Ranjith and Mohanlal have. Loham isn’t even an out and out mass movie; it doesn’t even utilise that trope effectively. Finally Loham turns out to be a missed opportunity for Ranjith and Mohanlal. Instead of setting up a benchmark of sorts, the film only tells us what these veterans must definitely avoid. The film may have got off to a terrific start at the box office, but if you talk of quality then the film fails and fails quite hard on that front.