Director - Sathyan Anthikkad
Producer - MM Hamsa
Cast - Jayaram, Kaniha, Naren, KPAC Lalitha, Nedumudi Venu, Innocent, Venu Nagavalli, Mamukkoya, Vanitha, Lakshmipriya and others.
Music - Ilaiyaraaja
Cinematography - Venu ISC
Editing - K Rajagopal
Art Direction - Joseph Nelikkal
Story - Rajesh Jayaraman
Screenplay, Dialogues - Sathyan Anthikkad
Release Date - 23rd April 2009
Watching a Sathyan Anthikkad movie is like homecoming. After watching a whole set of movies about what we want to be and what we are trying to become, a Sathyan Anthikkad movie makes you realize what we are, after all. His films have consistently tackled the everyday lives of Malayalis with conviction as well as satire. Though we miss his combinations with Sreenivasan and/or Lohithadas, his movies still makes us smile and feel good. Out of the 4 movies he has written the screenplay for (the other 3 beingRasathanthram, Vinodayathra and Innathe Chinthavishayam), Bhagyadevatha can be considered his best work. He takes a simple story of a selfish, materialistic man from Kuttanad & his wife and turns it into a beautiful movie which makes you feel wonderful through its unpretentious charm. Someone has told me earlier that Sathyan Anthikkad is the 'nerchappetti' of Malayalis every year. He makes one movie per year and it is quite obvious that every Malayali living in Kerala at the time of the movie's theatrical run would have put their money into the 'nerchappetti' to watch his movie. I dont know any other director who can guarantee a 100 day run as a minimum, based just on his name. (It is to be noted that even his poorest films run more than 50 days). He has been consistently making good movies in the way that he knows best. He doesnt go into territories that he does not know and does not venture into experiments. But he is certainly a master at making the kind of cinema that he has been making all these years. A Malayali cannot resist watching Sathyan Anthikkad's movies, especially when he gets together with Mohanlal or Jayaram. In this movie, Sathyan Anthikkad gets back with his second most favourite hero, Jayaram, who made a good comeback last year through Veruthe Oru Bharya. And thankfully, instead of going with his usual heroine Meera Jasmine, he opted to import Kaniha from Tamil Cinema. And the movie also saw the first time combination of Sathyan Anthikkad and veteran camerman Venu, who hadnt been working in Malayalam for quite a long time. The other regulars like Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, Nedumudi Venu and Mamukkoya were all there. And of course, the maestro Ilaiyaraaja with some wonderful music.
Benny (Jayaram) is a small time cable tv network franchisee. He leads a normal life with his family of his mother, grandmother and two sisters. But he is not content with his life and status, and wants to make more money. While discussing this with his father's friend, tourist guide Sadasivan Pillai (Nedumudi Venu), he decides that he will get into the fishing business. To organize with the money for that, Sadasivan Pillai comes up with an idea. He asks Benny to get married and ask for a dowry of 5 lakhs from the bride's family. Convinced that this would bring him the money to buy the fishing boat, Benny decides to get married. He is engaged to Daisy (Kaniha) after her father (Venu Nagavalli) agrees to pay the dowry money, even though Benny and Pillai does not make it obvious that the marriage was being done just for the money. But the money is not paid during the engagement and even after the marriage. A furious Benny declares to Daisy that they will not have a relation till her father pays the money promised. Daisy wins the hearts of Benny's family, but Benny keeps ignoring her. And after the time asked by her father gets over, Benny leaves Daisy back at her house. But right after this, a huge surprise was in store for Benny. Bhagyadevatha tells the story of that surprise.
The good things about watching a Sathyan Anthikkad movie are its seamless narrative structure which just flows, extremely natural acting by the entire cast (its surprising to see the same people hamming it up in movies by other directors), great music, soothing visuals, smart and simplistic comic scenes which genuinely make you laugh and of course, the fact that it can be watched by the entire family together without being uncomfortable at any point of time. Even if the story is predictable, we still enjoy watching the movie, thanks to the director's handling of the movie. And of course, there are a host of supporting characters, whom we'll instantly fall in love with. The warring mother and grandmother (her mother-in-law), the flirtatious younger sister, the uncle who's also a drama actor, the tourist guide-cum-marriage broker, the neighbourhood boatman, the rich, but low-class boat owner and many others. Such characters and the village roots are always the things we love the most in Sathyan Anthikkad movies. Whenever he has done away with them, we have not liked his movies as much. The latest example being his last movie Innathe Chinthavishayam. Though the movie has a Christian setting, it has all the characters that one can find in any such village. The interval point of the film is the best we have seen in recent times. I have never felt so good seeing an interval scene, as I did while watching this one. It was hilarious and can make even the most stone-hearted person laugh/smile. The scenes that follow the interval are even more hilarious. The director also addresses certain issues like dowry, the foolish business decisions by Malayali men, the troubles caused by political parties, etc in his typical satirical style. And as usual, the climax is not really dramatic, but a simple, suitable ending for the film. I thought Vinodayathra was Sathyan Anthikkad's best screenplay since he started writing on his own. That remains intact, but in Bhagyadevatha, his screenplay based on Rajesh Jayaraman's story is narrated much more effectively than Vinodayathra. Even though Sathyan Anthikkad is slowly maturing into a good writer, we still miss his combination with Sreenivasan. In fact, he himself has said that he started writing out of compulsion because Sreenivasan was not giving him screenplays (as a joke, of course).
Jayaram is wonderful as the chauvenistic Benny who has a lot of negative shades as well. He is extremely at ease while performing an array of emotions that he has to go through in the movie. His comic timing is as usual, wonderful. He should be appreciated for taking up a character which is not like the conventional hero of our films, and does many things that we may totally dislike. But still, he brings credibility to all those scenes and makes us root for him, even when does all those unacceptable things. Watch out for his expressions during the interval scene or the scene where he meets Venu Nagavalli at a tea shop after he takes some lottery tickets (this particular scene is priceless). Kaniha does not have much to do other than look pretty, which she does effectively. But the real star of the move is undoubtedly KPAC Lalitha. I dont know why, but I absoutely adored her performance in this movie SO SO much. I would say that it is one of the best performances of the year in Malayalam Cinema. She was so effortlessly spontaneous in almost all her scenes. She was powerful, sarcastic, emotional and authoritative,all at the same time. Actors like her are blessings to our industry. Its a real shame that the industry either keeps avoiding her or gives her extremely inconsequential roles. But Sathyan Anthikkad is not one among them and he extracts a fabulous performance from the versatile actress. The other old lady who played her mother in law (didnt get her name) was also fantastic. Their constant verbal battles were a delight to watch. Nedumudi Venu got a great comic role after a really long time, and he performed it with full perfection. Watch the scene where he explains to a foreigner how he lost his camera, and you will know what I'm taking about. Innocent in a Sathyan Anthikkad movie, has got to be deadly by default. It is the same in this one too, even though he has a shorter role. Mamukkoya also gives a delightful presence. Venu Nagavalli is good, but looks very tired because of his poor physical condition. In fact, due to his poor health, he couldnt even dub his own voice for the movie. It was very weird hearing a different voice from the lips of the man who perhaps has the best voice in the industry. And the find of the movie is none other than the actor who played the boat-owner Thanku Aashan. He was superbly over-the-top as the fisherman who became a millionair overnight. He had some of the movie's best lines and scenes. Even though Naren didnt have much to do, he still makes his presence felt. The rest of the cast also do their parts effectively. And one common thing with Sathyan Anthikkad movies is that you can always notice his crew members making small appearances in his movies. As usual, the production controller Sethu Mannarkkad, the still photographer Mohanan (Momi) and assistant director Venu make appearances in this movie as well. (I know most of them, since I have also had the good fortune of working in a Sathyan Anthikkad movie earlier, and I did one such appearance too :P. The veteran amongst all these people is Momichettan, who has making apperances in all Sathyan Anthikkad movies from the Mazhavilkkavadi days).
Ilaiyaraaja gives two truly wonderful songs and one ordinary song.'Swapnangal Kannezhuthiya Malsyakanyake' is certainly one of the best songs of the year. And the picturisation of the song is lovely, to say the least. Same applies for 'Aazhi Thira Thannil Veenalum'. But the other song, 'Allippoove, mallippoove', a duet involving Naren and Kaniha is disappointing. The picturisation wasnt very good too, except for the closing shot of the song. The background music is consistently good and oozes old-world charm. I could appreciate Venu's cinematography in the film more when I watched the film on DVD rather than while watching it in the theatre (maybe because of poor projection). He captures the essence of Kuttanad wonderfully and transports the audience to that place, even though the movie does not boast of may exquisite shots or frames. And as far as the editing goes, we never feel that a Sathyan Anthikkad film has been edited or that it is actually different shots put together. His movies have been seamless from time immemmorial. You never feel the presence of an editor or the change from one shot to another shot and that exactly is the success of the editor K Rajagopal. Art by Joseph Nellikkal is authentic and does full justice to the movie's subject. Costumes department has also done a good job.
The film had a smooth 100 day run at many theatres across Kerala and I strongly feel that it is one of the best films of the year. It doesnt boast of a completely 'different' storyline, it doesnt have any sign-boards saying that it is experimental, and can be loved by almost any random person in our state. The best part about the movie is that it is really 'unpretentious'. It does not try to be something else. But it shows what it really is, and for that quality alone, it should be loved. If there are people who do not like this movie, then there must be something terribly wrong with them. And if there are people who havent seen the film so far, the DVD is out on Moser Baer. Go get it as soon as possible and enjoy the film. Thank You Sathyan Sir for reminding us once in a while about what we are actually and taking us back home, taking us back to the lives of some true Malayalis. You are certainly every Malayali's pride. Cant wait for your next movie. :) :)
Rating - 4/5