History book in school teaches a student that the first Indian insurrection against the British happened in 1857, in Meerut. But more than half a century before that, a Malabar king had taken his brand against the British. That is the historical importance of Pazhassi Raja. This big budget Malayalam film by Hariharan-MT-Gokulam Gopalan chronicles the dauntless life of that patriot who sought the help of tribes and muslims in assisting his force to win back the control of Malabar.
In one line, Mammootty as Pazhassi Raja was perfect. I can’t imagine a different face for this gallant warrior. Even then it is to be doubted whether his supreme acting skills were tested to the limits in the film. In fact, the film is about Pazhassi’s plans to fight the British and how his men and women attempt to accomplish them. The valiance of the Raja himself seemed to be softened in the movie, but that gave enough room for others to showcase their abilities too. Action sequences are handled by his two trusted aides-de-camp – Edachena Kungan (Sarath Kumar) and Thalakkal Chanthu (Manoj Jayan). Sarath Kumar was brilliant with his screen presence, matureness, and actions. It is wonderful to see the two 55+ year old stars of South Indian film handling things with ease. Sarath Kumar stood out as the best actor in the movie. Manoj Jayan did very well as the head of the Kurichyars. Padmapriya was at her supreme best and fortuitously, she got enough opportunities to display different moods. She graciously cavorted through the jungle in adventurous scenes. At times, she was a silly lass looking forward to be with her man. She was equally brilliant in moments of exhilaration and devastation. Suman as Pazhayamveedan Chanthu gave out the expressions of a dishonest officer who later sided with the British. He was brilliant!
The early shots involving Jagadeesh and Jagathy were nothing less than nettling that it dampened the overall effectivity of those scenes. Lalu Alex was a let down as Emman Nair. This actor has been in the industry for about 30 years, and it is so saddening that he knows only one way of acting. The very same expressions, the very same dialogue delivery, and the very same movements as seen in his cinemas. Harry Key was unimposing as Assistant Collector Thomas Baber. His expressions and body language seemed very amateurish.
The visual beauty and sound effect ensured that there never was a draggy moment in the entire length of the film. The dissatisfactory aspect of such a mammoth film was the want for punching dialogues. The film boasts about visualising only the real incidents that happened in the life of Pazhassi Raja; but I doubt that. The movie is to be prised as it is an awesome tribute to a collective and audacious effort to uphold human rights, which sadly, failed to materialise. I would give the film 8 out of 10.