There was a time when one watched Malayalam films partly with a view of getting that reassuring feeling of how life continues to be a lot less chaotic back home in Kerala. Of course this is generally with reference to a non-resident Keralite like me. Times have of course changed, Kerala isn’t really all that tranquil overall as it used to be. There are signs of development and change all over and not really restricted to a Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram or Kozhikode, but even in the interiors as well. Of course once in a while we do get to see films like Maheshinte Prathikaaram which still enable one to soak in the ambience and the feel of the days gone by. While I am all for development and personally enjoy a lot of the so called new generation films, I do admit that I also do yearn from time to time for tales that are simple and rooted and giving me a glimpse of the state that usually serves as a place where I get to recharge myself once in a while.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan is one filmmaker for whom I have always had a lot of respect. In fact thanks to Doordarshan and their Sunday afternoon slot of regional cinema, I managed to watch some of his early works back then in my childhood. To be honest I didn’t really manage to appreciate the artistic nuances of those films then, understanding the deeper layers of the tales was something beyond my age and intellect those days. But as fate would have it, I have gone on to become immersed in cinema over the years and have been lucky to revisit almost all those films of Adoor later on, as well as catch up on his recent works as well. This time around I was fortunately better prepared and I could understand the intricacies involved in his films a lot more clearly. I wouldn’t claim to have mastered them but my appreciation over the years has certainly improved to an extent that I now really know what to expect from his films.
With his last two works, Naalu Pennungal (2007) and Oru Pennum Rendu Aanum (2008) Adoor had probably come up with films that were probably more accessible for the audience at large. Maybe it was a deliberate measure, after all balancing creative thought and artistic sensibility along with managing to appeal to a wide audience is not all that easy. For some strange reason post these two films Adoor went off to have a long break, perhaps the longest gap in his illustrious career so far. And finally after a long gap of 8 years he has returned with his latest venture, Pinneyum (Once Again). I had a premonition that perhaps this would be his most audience friendly film in his career and there were quite a few interesting things to note as far as the project was concerned. Pinneyum saw Adoor make his foray into digital filmmaking, something that he had never attempted so far.
With the support of a truly collaborative co-producer, Baby Mathew Somatheeram (Adoor being the other producer) this is also perhaps the first time than an Adoor film has received a wide Pan India release (with English subtitles) reaching out to the prospective audiences far more easily than ever before. Pinneyum is also the first film that sees Adoor working with Dileep, it also brings back the popular pairing of Dileep and Kavya Madhavan after nearly 5 years. Similarly the film sees popular Marathi actor, Subodh Bhave making his Malayalam debut. Hence it wasn’t a surprise at all that I was quite eagerly looking forward to the film and was quite astonished to see a good turnout for my show over the weekend. In a way it’s a minor victory of sorts for the filmmaker and probably for the independent cinema movement in India as well. It can always be debated whether the turnout was on account of the filmmaker, the popular lead pair or both? But why indulge in that now?
Pinneyum is basically a love story; a tad old fashioned and spread over a long period of time. The film revolves around Purushothaman Nair (Dileep) and his wife Devi (Kavya Madhavan). Theirs was a love marriage but then later on circumstances ensure that their married life gets into a state of disarray. Purushothaman is jobless and regretful of having got married so early without a job. He spends his time applying for vacancies and attending interviews while Devi is a teacher who runs the household with her earnings. Along with their daughter they live in her family home, where her father Pappu Pillai (Nedumudi Venu), a retired school teacher and her brother (Indrans), a perennially sick man also live. Things seem to change for the better when Purushothaman lands a job in the Gulf, bringing in initially some much needed joy and cheer in their lives. But then an unexpected series of incidents goes on to turn their lives upside down.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan has tried to draw our attention to the fact that greed is dangerous and how in today’s materialistic World it is easy to fall a prey to greed which takes the form of our ambitions. As seen in Pinneyum it can go on to even impact the lives of a few seemingly simple individuals with middle class aspirations. In course of time the film shifts its tone from that of a romantic drama to a thriller, something that one doesn’t usually associate with Adoor’s films. Hence the shift does look a little shaky and doesn’t manage to appeal as much as it could have. In fact there seems to be an uncanny resemblance to a popular case in the police records of Kerala, which remained unsolved for a long time, even inspiring a popular Malayalam thriller (film) back in the 80’s. I would not want to get into the details of all that as that could perhaps turn out to be a spoiler for those who still would want to catch the movie in a theatre around you.
Thankfully despite the thriller angle there is still the element of romance that is visible right till the end. In fact the more I think of the film now I am able to appreciate a few more aspects about the film. For example the film begins and ends with a crime scene of sorts and if you have observed closely, that does provide a strong connect to the way the story takes shape in the latter half of the film. Yes the film cannot really be compared to Adoor’s brilliant works in the past and times it appears to be a little too simple for comfort. However there are enough and more moments that remind us of the auteur in Adoor and the film puts us in a time freeze of sorts. Despite this being his entry into digital filmmaking I would say that he has managed to adapt reasonably well to the demands of the changing medium, getting some good output out of his technicians including DOP M.J.Radhakrishnan, editor B.Ajith Kumar and music composer Bijibal.
Dileep and Kavya once again show why they have always been a popular pair, certainly doing justice to the characters of Purushothaman and Devi respectively. Devi’s character in particular is that which involves a lot of maturity and being a seasoned performer Kavya nails it quite wonderfully. Subodh Bhave’s presence in the movie is for a particular reason, the second half of the film actually makes it clear as to why he was perhaps chosen for the film (not for just having an actor from another industry). The supporting cast is also good; Nedumudi Venu, Indrans, Vijayaragahavan and Srinda lend admirable support. The interactions between Kavya and Srinda, Dileep and Indrans, Kavya and KPAC Lalitha are all wonderful and quite what one would expect from an Adoor film. As a film it may not complete satisfy either the fans of Adoor or film lovers in particular, it is like a meal which is good in parts but doesn’t leave you totally content.
Pinneyum is not the best of Adoor, far from it in fact, but it is still refreshing in its own way and makes us hope that he doesn’t take another long break now. Who knows the next film from him might actually turn out to be even better now that he is back.
Note: Pinneyum is playing with English subtitles in select screens across the country and the quality of the sub titles is also pretty good, making it worthwhile for those who do not really understand Malayalam. After all its imperative that not knowing the language should never really be a hindrance to watching a film as far as possible.