Friday, October 16, 2009

Pazhassi Raja – The movie review

History

Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja was born in Kottayam Royal Family. Kottayam Kingdom covered the present day Wayanad and Manathavaday was the capital of this Kingdom. The British were at war with the world in the late 18th century, Americans had declared independence from British in 1776, In south Asia the Marathas and Tipu Sultan (Mysore) were fighting British (East India Company). Pazhassi Raja’s revolt against British started in the same time.  After Tipu left Malabar the British decided to collect the tax directly from the Kings and Nair Lords. The Tax raised by British was unreasonable and people didn’t have the capacity to comply. By listening to the people Pazhassi Raja stopped collecting the taxes.

On June 28, 1795 Pazhassi Raja challenged the British by stopping all tax collection and giving refuge to people who were considered revolutionaries by the British.  The 1797 saw a series of revolts resulting in heavy loss to the British and they were forced to withdraw. After losing his palace and moving onto Wayanad forest, Pazhassi started the guerilla war in June 1800. In 1802 Edachena Kangan and Thalakkal Chanthu captured Panamaram Fort and killed atleast 300 British soldiers. Thomas Harvey Baber came as a sub collector (in 1804) took direct charge of capturing Pazhassi Raja on November 1st, 1805.  On November 30, 1805 Pazhassi Raja was surrounded and killed by the British army. His body was taken back with respect by the British and was cremated with customary honours.  “He was our enemy, But he was a great man and a great warrior”. Thomas Harvey Baber – December 31st, 1805.
The Movie Review

The movie Pazhassi Raja brought the old team of Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha back. National Award winners – Mammootty, Director Hariharan and Script Writer MT Vasudevan Nair and the expectations were sky high – and the end result – they didn’t disappoint us. They created a well crafted movie at par with Hollywood movies. Now let us get into the movie details.
Mammootty plays the role of Pazhassi Raja while Sarath Kumar plays Edachena Kangan and Manoj K Jayan plays the role of Thalakkal Chanthu. Mammootty does a controlled act and plays the role of Raja to the perfection while Sarath and Manoj, Padmapriya (Neeli) and Suresh Krishna (Kaitheri Ambu) brings in a different dimension to the movie with their excellent acting and action scenes. Director needs to be commended for the excellent star cast and using the stars in their right strength. The movie runs in for 3 ½ hours, however with MT (Vasudevan Nair) at the helm of the script it flows smoothly.

The team did an excellent job in finding the right locations and some of them are breath taking. The camera work (By Ramanath Shetty) makes the movie a visual delight.  The music by the maestro Illayaraja is excellent.  The cinematography peaks at the time of war scenes. Of course, you can’t compare this (war scenes) with Braveheart or Gladiators but you can definitely put this at par with Kevin Costner’s Oscar Winner Dances with the wolves.

The king (Pazhassi Raja) with limited resources at his possession has to resort to guerilla war fare. The action shot especially the camera angles and the sound design by Oscar Winner Resul Pookutty is at par with Hollywood movies.  Even the friendly dual between Pazhassi Raja and Edachena Kangan is a treat to watch (lookout for the visual and sound effects). The sound effect of arrows from Neeli (Padmapriya) and Chanthu (Manoj K Jayan) brings the viewers right in the middle of the conflict.  The thunder storm and the heavy rain when the British hangs Chanthu makes the scene touching and memorable.  Pazhassi Raja’s solo entry into British camp to avenge Chanthu’s death is memorable too.  Another highlight of the action scene is the attack of the Panamaram Fort by Kangan (Sarath Kumar) and Chanthu (Manoj K Jayan). This is one of the best war action scenes by the Indian Cinema. The sound effects and the background score of the movie definitely deserve another Oscar.


There are lots of cinematic moments scripted by MT (Vasudevan Nair) – Pazhassi Raja (Mammootty) with his uncle Kurumbranaadu Raja Veeravarma (Thilakan), the climax with Thomas Baber (Harry Key), with Emman Nair (Lalu Alex) before the final conflict. Of course you can’t compare these with Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha but still Mammootty brings in his magical touch to these scenes. Another moment to cherish is Kangan's (Sarath) dialogues with Chandhu (Suman) on declaring the treaty as void. Excellent screenplay by the script writer giving ample scope for each actor to prove their strength.

Rest of the cast including Suman (Pazhayamveedan Chandhu), Jagathy (Kanara Menon), Nedumudy Venu (Moopan), Devan (Kannavathu Nambiar), Captain Raju (Unni Mootha), Jagatheesh (Bhandari), Kaniha (as Pazhassi Raja’s wife – Katheri Maakam),  along with British Actors Peter Evans (as Major James Gordon),  Linda Arsenio (Dora – Baber’s fiancee) and Harry Key (as Thomas Hervey Baber) did their part well.

The negative side of the movie.
The recreation of 18th century villages looks too new. It should have given more rough look to the fences, hut roofs, roads etc. Authenticity of the dressings of the tribal’s (checkout for the red band on Chanthu – Manoj K Jayan’s forehead) . The dialogue delivery of Neeli – instead of Padmapriya someone else should have dubbed for her – as she doesn’t talk Malayalam, her dialogues has an English slang. The key weakness (clean white dress of the tribals, sparkling white teeth of the tribal Neeli - Padmapriya) lies in the Art Direction. Some of the fight scenes (flying scenes - similar to Chinese movies Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Hero) should have been made more realistic.


Final verdict: Excellent movie with very high production quality, excellent acting and action scenes. It will be definitely one of the best movies from India.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

On a side note: Production cost of Pazhassi Raja is Rs 32 crores ($6.92 Million Dollars) compared to Braveheart $53 Million Dollars, Gladiator $103 Million, Dances with wolves $19 Million Dollars.

Malabar Days By Nick Balmer - Thomas Baber was Nick's great great great great uncle.