Paavada Movie Review: A Tale of Alcoholism and Soft Porn Films That’s Effective and Non Sleazy

The Malayalee obsession with booze is something that by now people across the Country and perhaps even overseas are aware of. With all the drama over the closure of bars and the recurrent courtroom battles over the same, even those who weren’t aware of Kerala being the highest alcohol consuming state in India, now know the same. No wonder that the topic is subtly being touched upon in films as well, after all for a state that has always looked at drinking as a social past time, it’s not really easy to show scenes of drinking in bars in Malayalam cinema now. Another topic that has some special relevance to the state of Kerala is that of soft porn films, after all this is a phenomena which has been in existence for a very long time, even having its own periods of highs and lows to talk of. Now when someone attempts a film which in a way brings a connection between these two aspects, how would you expect the film to be? If your answer is boisterous, raunchy and maybe even crass, well then that’s exactly what G.Marthandan’s Paavada is not.

Paavada Poster 2Marthandan came into notice with his Mammootty starrer, Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus (2013), a film which wasn’t quite appreciated by the critics, but did reasonably business wise. He then teamed up once again with Mammootty in his second film, Acha Dhin (2015), which made no impact whatsoever. So when I heard of his latest film Paavada, I was a little skeptical for a couple of reasons. After all he hadn’t really done any wonders with his previous two films, added to it was a rather silly sounding title. But then the first look posters and later the promos made me feel a little confident of the product. Also the USP of the film was certainly going to be the presence of Prithviraj who has been having a fantastic time at the box office of late, with 3 straight hits in a row including a blockbuster. Released on January 15th along with Monsoon Mangoes, a Fahadh Faasil film, it was good to see the team of Paavada managing to get the film get a good release not just in Kerala but also outside the state. Considering that the film had to compete with Tamil and Telugu new releases for slots (being Pongal/Sankranti) it was quite an achievement I must say.

Paavada Still 1Pambu Joy (Prithviraj) is a jack of all trades, proficient in various skills but is a chronic alcoholic who prefers the company of the bottle over everything else. His addiction to liquor finally results in his wife Sinimol (Mia George) leaving him, going on to join an old age home as a nurse. Babu Joseph aka Paavada Babu (Anoop Menon), a former professor of English literature is someone who saw his personal and professional life all go downhill due to circumstances, driving him straight into the refuge of liquor instead. He spends his time drinking all day, often getting into drunken fights and roaming around town at night in his car. Joy and Babu meet at an alcohol de-addiction centre where they are room-mates and quickly forge a bond over what else, but alcohol :). They manage to escape from the place in comic fashion and soon Joy goes on to become a trusted aide and friend of Babu as they make merry in various ways. Just when Joy and Babu are getting used to this new phase in life there comes a day when Joy realizes that the two of them share a bond which goes a long way back in time. But that is a revelation which goes on to alter their lives in ways that they had never thought of.

The first half of the film is full of fun and frolic and drunken revelry, in fact the film opens with a common man narrating the story and taking us into the lives of Joy and Babu. But there’s a difference here though, as the common man here is a tipsy chap enjoying his daily dose of toddy at a “kallu shaap” :). We see how inventive Joy can be when it comes to getting his supply of drinks even on a dry day or while inside the de-addiction centre. We also see how Babu still cannot get over his old love and that he just cannot bear anyone referring to him as “Paavada” Babu. If you are wondering if the film is just about drunkards and their bonding over booze, then don’t worry as Bipin Chandran’s screenplay ensures that the second half is quite an emotional ride indeed. Actually post interval the film changes track completely, going on to throw a look how a serious artistic film can eventually end up as a soft porn film, impacting the lives of all the people involved.

Paavada Still 2Reminiscent in a way of recent films like Matinee and Kanyaka Talkies, the second half of the film is quite a grim reminder of how some innocent people unfortunately see their life turn upside down by getting sucked into the word of sleazy films. While Paavada doesn’t really delve into the actual behind the scenes working of the soft porn industry (in fact wouldn’t that actually make for an interesting topic for a film considering how soft porn films have had a legacy of sorts in Malayalam cinema?), it does ensure that the transition from a fun and perhaps even a slightly wayward first half to a more serious and socially relevant second half is not in vain. Also it’s important to note that the film doesn’t sensationalize the issue and avoids being preachy as far as possible. Yes G.Marthandan has taken a slight risk with the way the film has been structured, those who are in it expecting a fun entertainer might be a little taken aback in the second half, certain others might find the first half rather to be a little difficult to relish.

But then in a way it is this very changeover brought in by the screenplay that actually makes Paavada quite an interesting watch. It is a little difficult though to accept the film to be set in today’s times, it is perhaps more likely to be a tale of a few years ago, considering the abundance of bar scenes in the film (even in the present). Aby Tom Cyriac’s compositions fit the film, but perhaps wouldn’t make it to any of the year end compilations. The film also has managed to get the period look (80’s) done subtly and without going the flashy mode, credit to Pradeep Nair’s cinematography and the art department/production design (Sujith Raghav) for the same. The film has a fantastic supporting cast and the casting choices work in favour of the film. Sudheer Karamana as the priest who understands Joy, Chemban Vinod as the strict priest running the de-addiction centre, Kalabhavan Shajon as the opportunist production controller turned producer Eldo, Nedumudi Venu as the aged caretaker of Babu’s place, Siddique in a cameo as a wily and seasoned lawyer, Asha Sharath as Sicily, Joy’s mother and the fulcrum of the film in a way and Murali Gopy in a cameo as a filmmaker, all do justice to their roles.

Paavada Still 3Mia George doesn’t have a challenging role but as someone who loves her husband and yet a practical individual, she is quite convincing. It’s also good to see her getting some scope even in the post interval portions. Maniyanpilla Raju does well, both as a producer and as an actor over here, playing Babu’s confidant who understands truly and stands by him always. Anoop Menon is fantastic as Babu Joseph, someone who is a victim of fate and who allows himself to carry on as a loser in life. It’s easily his best performance in recent times, no doubt about it. Prithviraj literally lives the character of Pambu Joy, right from the puffy eyes and the unsteady gait and his overall body language, he portrays an alcoholic wonderfully, without going overboard. He is equally good in the humorous scenes as well as those which require him to get emotional. There should be no surprise as to why Paavada has turned out to be the 4th straight hit in a row for this talented actor.

Paavada makes a good start for Prithviraj this year and also sees director G.Marthandan come up with his best effort so far. It is a film with a relevant topic and packaged well enough to appeal to the audience.

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