Monday, January 31

Arjunan Sakshi - Good, but had potential to be a lot better.

Movie - Arjunan Sakshi (Malayalam)
Director - Ranjith Sankar
Producer - S Sundarajan
Cast - Prithviraj, Ann Augustine, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Mukesh, Vijayaraghavan, Biju Menon, Suresh Krishna, Anand, Salimkumar, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Vijeesh
Music & Background Score - Bijibal
Cinematography - Ajayan Vincent
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Art Director - Manu Jagadh
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Ranjith Sankar
Release Date - 28th January 2011

Ranjith Sankar had made a sparkling debut with Passenger, thereby announcing the arrival of a genuinely talented writer-director in the Malayalam Film Industry which was starved of young talent. So his second directorial venture was eagerly looked up to with expectation and anticipation if the director would live up to the promise shown by him in his very first film. Well, he does, mostly. But there are many places where he has faltered as well. He has taken up a relevant social issue and has given a wake up call to the citizens of the state to be more responsible human beings rather than just existing as passive spectators. And yes, he has made major use of the media as a strong catalyst in his storytelling this time around as well. 

Anjali Menon (Ann Augustine) gets an anonymous  letter from somebody called Arjunan who claims to have been a witness to the murder of the previous district collector of Kochi, Firoze Mooppan IAS (Mukesh) and that he is afraid to come out in the open fearing the actions of Firoze's murderers. Roy Mathew (Prithviraj) is a suave architect from Mumbai who lands up in Kochi for a great job and a stay at his own home state where he has never lived. But things take a turn when Roy is mistaken for the anonymous Arjunan during a chance encounter. How Roy's life turns topsy turvy after this incident and how he comes out of this situations forms the rest of the narrative of Arjunan Sakshi. 

Ranjith Sankar likes to make a hero out of the common man who is trapped in uncommon situations. We saw that in Passenger and we see that yet again in Arjunan Sakshi too. His movies have educated characters who are part of the metropolitan culture of the bustling city that is Kochi. Roy Mathew, the protagonist of AS wasnt very concerned about the social development of the city he stays in except for some passive references, but once he is trapped in this situation, he realizes that how much of a problem it actually is and decides to stand up for the issue along with his investigation for the truth behind the Firoze Mooppan murder. The first half sets up the premise brilliantly, but the second half of the movie does not keep up the momentum built in the first. There are many loose ends in the script (I'm not going into them in detail), a lot of convenient coincidences and a climax which was predictable. Yet the movie managed to hold my interest and impress me in totality. 

Prithviraj finally plays a part which is completely suitable for him and he does that with gusto. Ranjith Sankar has been able to extract a sensitive and effective performance from the young, good looking star. Fans of the actor might be disappointed to see him not reacting with a stunt sequence even he is pushed to do so, which is a brave thing for the director to do - not to use his star image even when he could have gotten away with it. After a terrible 2010, AS gives a great start to Prithviraj in 2011. Here's wishing that more directors could use the actor in him effectively like Ranjith did in this film. Ann Augustine continues the good work she did in her debut as Elsamma and does her part of a journalist convincingly. And thanks to the director for not implying a romance between the male and female leads of the film. Usually, directors try to force that in somewhere even though its not required at all, but thankfully Ranjith has stayed away from that. Our industry still hasnt been able to utilize even half of the talent of the actor called Jagathy Sreekumar. Films like Passenger and AS where he is cast against stereotype is where this man proves that he is capable of great things even when he is not doing comedy. Ranjith Sankar joins the list of directors like Padmarajan, Venu Nagavalli and Priyadarsan who has used Jagathy Sreekumar in the most effective ways. His short role is perhaps the best act in this movie. Nedumudi Venu is gracious as the editor of Mathrubhoomi (product placement - doesnt do much good for Mathrubhoomi). There is absolutely no suspense in the revealing of the villains and you get to see regular villains like Biju Menon, Suresh Krishna and Anand in this movie as well. The best thing about Passenger was that the negative role played by Jagathy Sreekumar was as interesting as the two main leads of the film. Here the villains are unidimensional and dont work at all. Mukesh was effective in his cameo as Firoze Mooppan. Vijayaraghavan plays a police officer and does well yet again. Vijeesh (Noolunda) is also impressive as Roy's friend. And yes, there's a clear sign of pressure from the producers in the inclusion of Suraaj Venjarammoodu and Salimkumar to a movie like this. But thankfully they dont stick out and Ranjith has been able to use them well without deviating from the narrative. 

The screenplay moves at breakneck speed in the first one hour and slows down considerably in the second hour. The climax, where the main brainwave is a hidden camera is easily predictable and something which Ranjith already used effectively in Passenger. Even the construction of those scenes reminds us of the climax of Ividam Swargamanu (minus the humour). There is a scene towards the end where Prithviraj's dialogues seem very preachy. These instances do hamper the film a lot and could have definitely been avoided. But since the intention is genuine and credible, we can overlook these glitches as the movie is able to give a satisfying experience in totality. 

Ajayan Vincent's fantastic cinematography is perhaps the second lead of the film. His camera looms over the city of Kochi and captures some fantastic visuals. The crane/jib shots in the extremely busy Vyttila Junction are excellent. Why was this brilliant cinematographer on a hiatus till 2 years back?? I guess he is making up for all the lost time with brilliant work in all the films he works on - good or bad. Bijibal's background score is very effective and his theme song sounds very familiar (though I cant place which song it is similar to). Ranjan Abraham tries to keep up the pace of the movie through his brisk editing. The chase scene in the first half is spectacularly shot and deserves a special mention for the camerawork, editing and action choreography. 

On the whole, Arjunan Sakshi is a good, effective film which could have been a lot better if the writer-director had paid enough attention to certain major aspects in the second half. Prithviraj comes up with a honest and effective performance utilizing his strengths after a long time. There is a strong social message towards ordinary citizens to act more responsibly and the movie, in totality is a noble effort which should be appreciated. 

Rating - 3.25/5

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