Sunday, November 15
Passenger - One of the best movies of 2009.
Movie - Passenger (Malayalam)
Director - Ranjith Shankar
Producer - SC Pillai
Cast - Sreenivasan, Dileep, Mamta Mohandas, Jagathy Sreekumar, Nedumudi Venu, Madhu, Manikkuttan, Sona Nair, Harisree Ashokan, Anoop Chandran and others.
Music - Bijibal
Cinematography - P Sukumar ISC
Editing - Ranjan Abraham
Art Direction - Saburam
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Ranjith Shankar
Release Date - 7th May 2009
Watching movies like Passenger, gives us hope and makes us feel that Malayalam Cinema has not completely deteriorated. I had seen this movie earlier in the theatre in May and now, since the DVD has released, I watched it again with my family, who hadnt seen the film earlier. And like the first time, I was glued on to the screen until the whole movie got over. The DVD doesnt have an interval and that proved to be an advantage, as I could watch the whole movie without losing the flow. In short, the movie is about how ordinary people can make life-changing events happen if they have the courage to take a stand for a good cause. And this theme is narrated through a gripping story and screenplay by debutante Ranjith Shankar. Thankfully, the movie was a success and the audience accepted this experimental film which had no songs, no stereotypical situations, no stunt sequences and yet, was fully action packed.
The story goes in two directions and criss-crosses at a particular point. Sathyan(Sreenivasan) and his group of friends are people who work in Ernakulam in the day and travel back to their houses (towards Thrissur side) every evening. They have a regular card game and chat session during each of these daily journeys. Advocate Nandan Menon(Dileep) and his wife, journalist Anuradha Nandan(Mamta) are fighting for a cause, to get back the land of a colony of fishermen from the clutches of a manipulative Home Minister Thomas Chacko(Jagathy Sreekumar). Anuradha is on a trip to Kottayam to interview Thomas Chacko. After the interview, she gets hold of an exclusive footage of the Home Minister's actual plans through a hidden camera. But as soon as the minister knows about this, the hunt for Anuradha begins. She starts running away from them to save her life and reveal the shocking truth that she came to know through that footage. Meanwhile, Sathyan misses his station while oversleeping in a train to Guruvayoor and meets Nandan in that train. After a brief interaction, they get down at Guruvayoor, and immediately after that, Nandan is kidnapped by a bunch of goons. Sathyan decides to do something to save Nandan. The events that follow makes up for the interesting story of Passenger.
What I have mentioned above, is a very vague synopsis of the movie. The writer-director has carefully constructed this story and the unfolding of events are done in a completely fresh and interesting way. It begins as two different stories, without any relation at all. But once Sathyan and Nandan meet, their lives become intertwined somehow. The movie covers political games, day to day lives of middle class working people and their families, the politics in media and several other relevant issues and gives out a strong message at the end too. All this is done, without being preachy and without disturbing the main plot of the film. I was delighted to see so much control and power packed into a script written and directed by a first timer. Ranjith Shankar has handled the movie much more effectively than any of our established filmmakers would have. He has made sure that the movie doesnt fall trap to any of the cliches of Malayalam movies. And without songs, stunts and heroism, he packs in an action packed thriller. That is the best thing about this 2 hour movie which goes at an unbelievably rapid pace.
Sreenivasan plays the lead role, or one of the lead roles, to be precise. He is the perfect choice for portraying a common man. But this man, Sathyan, despite being just another common man, is not afraid to take stands for good causes. And that is what makes him the hero of this movie. Sreenivasan plays the character perfectly and shines in the sarcastic humourous sequences. He looks a bit troubled while doing emotional scenes, as his old comfort is not seen in those scenes. But we dont mind it, as far as we have Sreenivasan on screen. There wouldnt be a single person in Kerala who does not like that man. But he surprises us with his strong performance in the second half of the film. So Sreenivasan, as the common man, is certainly the star of this movie.
Dileep is cast in a very unusual role. He usually does hero roles, sings songs, does comedy, beats up villains and all that. Here, he gets to do none of that. In fact, he is the one who gets kidnapped, instead of the heroine. He gets beaten up by the goons, but he never even goes into a larger than life mode. He tries to save himself by trying to beat them up, but fails nevertheless. So we get to see a very different Dileep from what we have seen of him. I think this one would definitely be one among his career best performances. He is controlled, subtle, strong and powerful without doing any of the things that regular heroes do. In fact, his role is nothing more than an extended supporting role. But he brings a lot of credibility to that role. Another thing I must say is the chemistry between Sreenivasan and Dileep. They meet only in one scene in the movie and that scene is a riot. There is a lot of sarcasm and tongue in cheek humour in that particular scene and I couldnt stop laughing. These 2 people havent come together in many films earlier. This scene really makes me think that they would make a great comic team, perfect with their timings.
Mamta is also one among the 'heroes' of the film. If you see carefully, you can notice that she is the one who gets maximum screen-time in the movie. She portrays the role of a strong, level-headed, yet vulnerable journalist excellently. She looks great throughout the movie too. And Dileep and her make a good pair too. Very rarely do we have such important roles for female leads in our movies. Mamta has taken advantage of that factor and has given a credible performance as Anuradha Nandan.
But the best performance among the lot is of course, Jagathy Sreekumar as the Home Minister. Cast against his regular comedy roles, he plays the ruthless, manipulative, business minded politician, who also turns into a sweet, soft and polite minister when he meets his people. The scenes showing him switching between these two personalities are just amazing. This movie proves that one of the finest actors in the country, Jagathy Sreekumar is actually much more than a comedian. Yet we always tie him down to do insignificant comic roles in film after film. Very rarely does he gets cast in roles like this. And when he does, he makes sure that people remember it for a long time.
Nedumudi Venu as the taxi driver who helps Sreenivasan and Mamta on their mission is also perfect. He gives credible support to the lead characters. Madhu puts in a good special appearance. Manikkuttan is decent. Sona Nair is good.
P Sukumar's camerawork is excellent and suits the mood of the film well. But the star among the technicians is Ranjan Abraham, whose perfect editing makes this movie go at an amazingly rapid pace, without any deviations whatsoever. Art direction by Saburam is also good. The movie has a nice theme song, which is played during the end credits, composed by Bijibal. Background score is decent and it is also able to lift the tension and thrill in certain scenes.
Time plays a very important role as well as fate, in this movie. The director has used both these things very well in his narrative. All the events in the movie happen within a certain number of hours. And the movie is able to keep its audience on the edge of their seats, glued to the screen, throughout the entire running time. Even though the attack plan revealed in the movie sounds far-fetched, it is narrated in such a way that, it seems plausible. There are many brilliant scenes, especially the last scene and the way the movie is concluded. Ranjith Shankar is indeed a very promising director. If he has made such a brilliant movie in his first attempt, one should really watch out for his next efforts. Such movies and different ideas rarely get made in Malayalam. Special thanks to Dileep, for taking up the different, risky role and playing it effectively. This should encourage more of his colleagues to take up different roles like these rather than doing songs, dances and stunts in every other movie. All in all, it is certainly one of the best movies of the year in Malayalam and rekindles hope in all those people who had lost faith in the future of Malayalam Cinema. Those who havent watched it yet, go get your DVD and watch immediately. Its not a film to be missed.
Rating - 4.2/5