Every once in a while comes a film that truly shakes you up and make you realize about the power of well-narrated stories in doing so. Director Ranjith's Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Kadha is such a film, which is exceptionally brilliant, intelligently executed and thrilling to the core.
Based on writer T.P.Rajeevan's book, the film is an investigative story, told in a refreshingly different way. Haridas (Mammootty), a private detective based in Delhi and his friend Sarayu (Gowri Munjal), comes to a sleepy north Malabar village called Paleri to unveil the mystery behind the murder of a beautiful woman named Manickam (Maithily), which happened more than five decades back.
It is through the eyes of Haridas that the truth behind the incidents that led to the shocking murder of Manickam comes out at an interesting pace. Manickam had died just a couple of days after her marriage to Pokkan, who was the good for nothing son of Cheeru (Swetha Menon). Soon, all the fingers start pointing to Murikkumkunnath Ahmed Haji (Mammootty, in a spectacular appearance), the rich and brash landlord, who virtually ruled the area according to his whim.
Ahmed Haji feared none and lived life strictly on his own terms. He slept with the women he set his eyes on, brutally assaulted the poor peasants who worked for him and had scant regard for the law. But for Haridas, there were still some missing links that finally proved to be quite startling and crucial. We won't reveal further and spoil the fun because the unravelling of the mystery is so engaging!
It is with absolute awe that one would come out of the theatres, especially for Ranjith, who has made perhaps one of the finest films in Malayalam history, based on Rajeevan's brilliant novel. There are flaws and scope for further improvement for sure, but the writer-director's ability to handle such an intricate tale needs to be appreciated wholeheartedly.
With a spectacular performance that can leave you spellbound, Mammootty underlines why he is easily regarded among the best actors in the country. His charisma, screen presence and style give an altogether different meaning to the characters and his portrayal of Ahmed Haji will remain as one of the best to have happened in Malayalam films, ever.
Swetha Menon's scintillating performance as Cheeru is another highlight of Paleri Manickam. In her role, she is at her sensuous best during her younger days and looks genuine as an aged and suffering woman, years later.
But the performances of the other two leading ladies, Maithily and Gowri Munjal, are nothing to rave about. No wonder, the focus is never really on them and as a result, it hasn't affected the film much.
The other key factor in the film's appeal could be the amateur artists who have played the supporting roles amazingly well. Almost all of them have made the film look authentic. The rest of cast including Sreenivasan, Siddique and T Damodaran among others have done their roles quite well.
The technical aspects about the film too need a mention here for the fine work that has gone into it. Here is an extra round of applause for Manoj Pillai's camera that does a brilliant job and the film's music, by Sharath and Bijibal, which syncs perfectly with the mood.
Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Kadha is one film that will haunt you days after you've left the theatres. It's a gem that comes not too often and the least you can do to appreciate it is to watch it at the cinemas, at the earliest!