Hariharan, MT Vasudevan Nair and Mammootty’s exhilarating epic Pazhassi Raja is a monumental film, one that will be treasured for years to come. It is a gutsy and outstanding film from the masters, a movie that goes beyond the message.
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja narrates a truly fascinating epoch in India’s history. It’s a film that inspires us to be grateful for all those who gave their lives to make our country free. One that instils a sense of pride in viewers minds, for being born in this blessed land! The sincerity that has gone into the making of the film is evident in every frame of this 3 hours 20 minutes classic. No two ways about it; let’s salute all those who have put in their efforts to make it happen.
Director Hariharan and writer M T Vasudevan Nair says about an important episode, which is Pazhassi Raja’s war against the British that happened more than 50 years before the first war of Independence in 1857. Well, it is already known that the history books in general have not been too kind to the Raja by not mentioning much about his patriotism, valour or his role in India’s freedom struggle.
The film begins during the time when the British had ordered to levy heavy taxes from the various kingdoms and Pazhassi Raja (Mammootty), who belonged to the Kottayam Royal family in Thalassery of Malabar region in Kerala, opposed this. After being forced to flee with his Queen Kaitheri Makkom(Kaniha), Lieutenant Edachena Kunkan (Sarathkumar) and Kaitheri Ambu (Suresh Krishna) to the forests, Pazhassi Raja started guerilla warfare against the British from the forests in Wayanad. He had the support of the tribal warriors like Thalackal Chanthu (Manoj K Jayan) and Neeli(Padmapriya).
After some initial successes, Pazhassi’s army soon started facing setbacks as they found the going tough against the guns and modern machinery of the English soldiers. The brave Raja and his faithful gang of warriors were defeated by the army led by the young British sub-collector Thomas Baber, with the help of some traitors like Pazhayamveedan Chanthu(Suman).
Mammootty is grace personified and the perhaps the best thing about him as the mighty Pazhassi Raja is that it is virtually impossible to imagine anyone else in his place. Shorn of any artifice or nervous energy he is real. 20 years after Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha, he still looks majestic and handsome. Without doubt, this is one of the best roles in his illustrious career.
The surprise packet is Sarath Kumar, who looks perfectly fit, heroic and absolutely invincible as Edachena Kunkan. Kaniha looks beautiful even without any make-up or jewellery and has the royal look that is required for her role as Kaitheri Makkom.
As the fierce tribal girl who fights like a cheetah, Padmapriya excels in her role as Neeli. Manoj K Jayan, Suresh Krishna and Suman have all done their job quite convincingly. The rest of the cast, which include the English actors like Linda Arsenio, also delivers an inspiring performance.
Hariharan and MT Vasudevan Nair have proved their brilliance when they team up several times before and once again, they underline their eminence, with a genuine effort. The technical aspects like Ramanath Shetty’s cinematography, Ravi Dewan’s action, Resul Pookkutty’s sound and Sreekar Prasad’s editing have also succeeded in taking to a different level.
Yes, there are aspects which one feels could have been better,like Ilayaraja’s music but the film as a whole is good enough that makes us forget those flaws. Critics might say that the film has taken some cinematic liberties and in fact it does but on the whole it is engaging and entertaining.
Gems like these happen only once in a while and when it does, never give it a miss. Two big thumbs up for this masterpiece of our times!
Banner: Gokulam Films
Cast: Mammootty, Sarath Kumar, Thilakan, Nedumudi Venu,
Jagathy Sreekumar, Captain Raju, Lalu Alex, Manoj K Jayan,
Biju Menon, Kalabhavan Mani, Suresh Krishna, Subair, Siddique,
Roshan, Manikuttan, Kanika, Padmapriya, Urmila Unni, Valsala Menon, Nikhila
Production: Gokulam Gopalan