If Paleri Manikyam was a Miss World contestant in a throng composed of recent Malayalam movies, it'll definitely win one or two of those special awards. Ones I have in mind are Miss Personality, Miss World Best National Costume(which in this case will be period costume) and probably Miss World People’s Choice as well.
Now who would win the Miss World title itself is left to debate. If it was in my hands I'd suspend giving the main award altogether until we can secure a time machine and go back to the future to that golden era of Malayalam cinema, the latter half of the 1980s and exhaust all the Miss World Malayalam Cinema awards till AD 2100 when there could be some hope of recovery, because all the current audience(the worst culprits, including me) and the film-makers will be dead by then.
Back to 2009-2010 and Ranjith’s latest offering, Paleri Manikyam : Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha. I am picky so be assured that even in this model of a contemporary malayalam movie I’ll find some flaws. But let us hear the good news first.
As a born-North Malabari I am excited by the trend of Malayalam movie hits moving northward, beyond the Northern edge of the Nila(or Bharatapuzha, M.T’s favorite haunt) and embracing newer writers for their source material. Case in point: Paleri Manikyam, Pazhassi Raja. As Dylan strummed famously, ‘old road is rapidly agin’.
Point # 1+ Original storyBy a Malayali writer – T.P.Rajeevan about a in a distinctly Kerala village of the fifties. I read somewhere that Paleri is a real village in Calicut, near Perambra and the case of Manikyam is the first ever recorded murder case in the history of Kerala Police, after it was formed in 1956.
Point # 2+ Art directionBy Murugan Kattakada, the period feel, costumes of the characters and locations reflect the amount of thought and work that had gone into them. Manoj Pillai’s cinematography is also praise-worthy to some extent.
Point #3+: Mammootty.Although I strongly oppose the reign of M & Ms, there is a reason why Mammootty and Mohanlal are where they are. Mammootty’s multiple roles in this film showcase his range and flexibility as an actor.
Point #4+ Other supporting actorsLike Shwetha Menon, Sreenivasan and the actors who played Velayudhan, younger Sreenivasan and Pokkan.
Point #5+ The director’s restraintIn not giving into the temptation of inserting a few foot-tapping songs.
Now for the Razzies.
Point #1- The script and screenplayBy Ranjith. It sounds too bookish, and explicitly suggestive, which instead of letting the audience decipher, kind of pushes and shoves them onto a path intended for them by the director. I have not read the original novel, so I am not sure whether the blame could be the script writer’s alone.
Point #2— Sarayu SharmaThe character seems out of place, patched on to a script at a later date when director failed to tie up all the ends in the story in a convincing way. Like a Microsoft Windows Service Pack or the iPhone4 rubber band, with a smoking cigeratte propped onto her hand just before someone shouted ‘Action’.
Point #3- The sepia filterFor flash-back scenes. Not sure what could be an alternative, but that’s why I am on this side of the screen, nitpicking on the movie makers.
My overall review: Paleri Manikyam has more stuff going for it than against it, no wonder it was a hit. A welcome drizzle in a season of endless drought. I am not going into an in depth analysis of the story and the characters as many bloggers have gone that way before and carved out a readable path if you care to read.