Abhishek K. Venkitaraman
What if I told you that Anupam Kher acted in a Malayalam movie with Mohanlal? Watching these two legends along with Jayaprada is a delight. The poignant story and brilliant performances are like icing on the cake!
Pranayam, directed by Blessy is a sublime love story which takes it time to work on you, and once it does, you’ll fall in love with it. Breaking stereotypes is not a new thing for Malayalam cinema, and here it does it again, by centering the story around three elderly characters who have seen the highs and lows of life and are now living relatively content and fulfilling lives. How their lives intervene and how these characters discover joy in little things form the crux of the story.
Story and screenplay
Achutha Menon(Anupam Kher) comes to live with his son Suresh(Anoop Menon) and his daughter in law Ashwathy(Navya Natarajan). As fate would have it, he runs into Grace(Jayaprada), who is his ex-wife, 40 years later. The shock and surprise are too much to bear, and he collapses in the elevator. Old lovers and rekindled feelings! While Achutha has remained unmarried and caring for his son all his life, Grace has remarried and is living in the same building with Mathews (Mohanlal), a retired Professor of Philosophy who has his own philosophy of life. Tensions ensue when Achutha and Grace start spending some time together. What follows is a clash with societal notions, intense emotions, and flashback of memories. The movie takes it own sweet time to grow on you, the screenplay is mostly linear with some flashback sequences. There is no climactic moment as such in the movie, although look out for a fun road trip which doesn’t end well. To find fault in a movie with such legends is difficult but screenplay could have been tighter and there is scope for more editing.
Direction and Cinematography
While the movie doesn’t have a color palette as such, the tone is a little melancholic. The crashing waves of sea in the background would take you back in memories. I guess that’s the power of the sea waves and its sounds. Director Blessy zooms into the mind of a beautiful woman and two men who have come into her life at different points of time. Even though it gets melodramatic at times, the director manages to convey and capture the protagonists’ mind and heart. The movie is full of conflicting situations and are well handled with the aid of powerful dialogues. The visuals are top notch.
I might be biased towards Malayalam cinema but it’s hard-to-find fault with the performances in a Malayalam movie, owing to the dedication the actors put into their roles. Here, however, it’s a tad bit jarring to see the bad dubbing of Anupam Kher. Malayalam is not Kher’s first language, so its understandable that it might have been difficult for him to get the dialogues right. But he makes up for it with his gestures and body language. This is indeed a man who has suffered two attacks and has seen much in life. Mohanlal as usual, is brilliant in the role of physically disabled retired Professor. His scenes with Jayaprada and Anupam Kher are a delight to watch. For me, the soul of this movie is Jayaprada, who delivers one of her finest performances. Grace and Mathews are close, and they share a fine intimacy between them even at this age. The chemistry looks real and beautiful.
Why is it that friendship between an elderly man and an elderly woman is frowned upon? As Jayaprada screams in one scene “Is sex the only form of a relationship between a man and a woman?”. And why is it that the young generation is not accepting if their parents find a platonic companion at a mature age? Pranayam deals with all these themes of love and friendship. Despite all its shortcomings, the themes in Pranayam are what makes it worth your time. How often do we get to see a love story between an elderly couple? Does love lose its importance even if you are divorced and haven’t seen your partner for 40 years? Maybe you could have tried harder to work on the relationship and it might have survived the storm. And can you remain friends with your ex? Its just 3 people reviving their acquaintance. Elderly people have full right to enjoy their lives as well. Should we really care about the society and its so called “taboos”? Pranayam deals with these societal barriers and questions them rightly so.
How much do we know our parents? Our parents might have had long lost lovers as well. As youngsters we tend to forget that our parents had a life before marriage and before they had us. Afterall, at the end of the day, one needs a friend, just to make this life a little bearable.
Pranayam might not be a brilliant film, but its an important one. Its your slice of life movie.
You can watch Pranayam on MX Player.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.