Cast: Mohanlal, Lakshmi Goplalaswamy, Shwetha Menon, Padma Priya, Bharat Gopi, Nedumudi Venu
Direction: PT Kunju Mohammed
Music: Ramesh Narayanan,
Paradeshi is a film that deserves to be scrutinized rather minutely because it comes from P.T. Kunhimuhammed, the maker of Magrib and Gershome, both of which won rave reviews. And also because it claims to be discussing a theme that has special relevance.
Paradeshi takes us into the lives of people who are forced to live like foreigners in their own country, on their own land. The focus is mainly on Valiyakaththu Moosa, a very aged man living with his family in Malappuram. Valiyakaththu Moosa had gone over to Pakistan in his childhood seeking work. After partition he returns to his native place, but the authorities don’t accept him as an Indian citizen. For them he is a Pakistani. He is arrested several times and even taken and left across the border. But he always manages to return and continues to live in his homeland either by acquiring a government permit or by bribing the police officials.
A young journalist named Usha comes to him seeking to do a report on people like him. Moosa and his wife tell Usha in detail about their lives and their times. And it is thus that we get to meet more such people including Khadeeja, Abdurrahman, Hamza, Usman, Nabeesa etc. The story of such people, who face a terrifying kind of alienation in their own homeland and who have to live in constant fear of the police even in their old age, culminates in what we see in the ultimate fate of Moosa.
Mohanlal is good as Moosa, though not extraordinary. In the last reels where Moosa tries desperately to escape being caught by the police, he has excelled. Shwetha Menon as Moosa’s wife is below par. Though it is a welcome change to see her in a deglamorized role without the ‘oomph’ factor, her performance leaves much to be desired. Lakshmi Gopalaswamy as Khadeeja is impressive. Padmapriya as Usha also impresses.
The person who steals the show is Jagathy Sreekumar, who delivers a sterling performance as Abdurrahman, who becomes mentally deranged after the harrowing ordeals he has to go through. Siddique is very good as Hamza and T.G. Ravi does well as Usman. Most of the others in the cast are also good.
All the songs in the film are good. The song “Thattam pidichchu…” is rendered and visualized splendidly. “Ya dhuni dhuni…” too is a good song. Background score syncs well with the theme and the mood of the film.
It is the theme that makes Paradeshi different from run-of-the-mill flicks. But after seeing the film, one gets the feeling that the script should have been a lot slicker. The treatment and the overall pace of the film dispel the average audience, especially since the film has the typical art-film lag, which seems to have been deliberately put in, just for the sake of it.
The make-up often is too heavy and is very conspicuous in some shots. The last scene in which Moosa is left to walk across a desert raises many doubts in us. Did the director really mean to say that people like Moosa are left to walk across the desert and become victims of bullets likely to be fired from either side? Or is it intended to be a symbolic representation? Anyway, something else could perhaps have been worked out, something that would have been more palatable for the viewers. To sum up, Paradeshi is a good attempt, though it tends to be pretentious. It is a film that shouldn’t be missed out however.