Ok, I need a minute to gather my thoughts. If you have been following my reviews now then you will know my love for Malayalam cinema. 2021 was a breakthrough year and one of my favourite films from last year was a Malayalam film Nayattu. I did not know what to expect from the gritty drama but by the end of it I was left boiling and numb. That is the thing with political dramas/thrillers. It should be willing to punch up and not punch down or dilute its sentiment. Which is exactly why the films in this genre are rare as not all filmmakers would want to take on the authorities. And this is why I adorn Malayalam cinema for the courage which it showcases. It isn’t afraid to rub people the wrong way and nothing and almost nothing comes in between their creative freedom. With that I finished watching the Malayalam film Pada on Amazon Prime which is in a similar space. The film has been garnering some glowing reviews including my favourite filmmaker Anurag Kashyap endorsing it. If he recommends something, I watch – as simple as that. So then is Pada worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
Loosely based on true events, Pada(literally translated to Troops in Malayalam) follows the story of four men who hold the district collector as a hostage in order to meet their demands from the authorities. The story is hard-hitting and very powerful and it gave me a glimpse about the actual issue which is still relevant today. As Anurag Kashyap had rightly put it, this is Malayalam cinema’s rendition of Dog Day Afternoon with a twist. The screenplay at just over two hours is crisp and taut. It begins with the stories of four characters which don’t seem to be related to each other until the writers give the audience a hunch that they are upto something. The reason is held close to the chest. There is a considerable amount of buildup which made me curious as to what were the characters upto and why. But then BANG! The can of worms open citing an issue which made me root for them.
The entire hostage situation is filled with chaos bit it is here that the writers excel. The events seem real and rooted and they never go overboard in driving home their point. The chain of events unfold like a thriller while the element of the issue which was raised runs throughout the duration of the drama. This for me was very clever as they did manage to “punch up” with the message and evoke that feeling of helplessness even with the audience. This ends in a moving final act which filled me with many emotions and thoughts. This made me feel closer to how I had felt after finishing Nayattu. I was angry yet numb. All in all a brilliantly penned screenplay!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are cleverly penned. The reason I say this is that at no point do they get preachy or manipulate the audience to root for the protagonist. Yet they leave a lasting impact with their minimal use. The BGM is outstanding and it adds a lot of hussle to the drama. The editing here is particularly brilliant with an equally good piece of cinematography. Director Kamal KM has done a stupendous job. He does not shy away the point which he wants to convey and he does it with finesse in a way that it hits you exactly where it hurts the most. Distinction marks for the direction here.
The performances are quite brilliant by the ensemble for the ages! Raavi Kishor as Malini, Shine Tom Chacko as Sadiq, Indrans as Kannan all have their moments to shine. Unnimaya Prasad as Mini and Kani Kusruti as Sheeja are vital cogs in the screenplay and both of them are excellent. Prakash Raj as Rajasekharan delivers a very dignified performance. Arjun Radhakrishnan as Ajay Dange(last seen in Jhund) is outstanding here and very well measured. Dileesh Pothan as Narayanakutty is brilliant and it amazes me how effortlessly he conveys emotions through his eyes. Vinayakan as Balu looks intimidating but is just as soft in his mannerism, a wonderful contrast even for the audience. The Nayattu duo of Joju George ane Kunchacko Boban are back here. The former is a stupendous actor and as Aravindan he does a fabulous job even in quieter moments. And the latter as Rakesh shines with his stoic expressions is a screen stealer. Such an underrated actor in yet another acting masterclass!
Pada is probably the Best Malayalam film of 2022 so far which manages to punch above its weight. Available on Amazon Prime and Highly Highly Recommended.