We all like to watch a movie that has a star-studded cast. Imagine those characters going back in time to show something unreal but exciting? What if those moments are daubed onto the film by an ace cameraman who himself is the director? A bang-up movie on offer! Seeing the crowds in front (in back, in sides, and everywhere!) of the theatre, I wondered whether I would be able to get inside to watch this film. Thanks to the online reservation facility at Kairali theatre Trivandrum, I could skip over the queueueueue (!) and ease into the seat much before the house became full.
Urumi opens with a yarn of the travel stories of Vasco da Gama, and how he gained control of the southern coast of India by trading in spices. Then it takes us to the lives of two young fellows who are in need of money to clear their debts. One of the friends Krishnadas (Prithviraj) gets an offer from a multi-national company to buy his mother’s ancestral land for the purpose of mining. When he reaches the place, he is taken aback by a man of strange affectations to whom people take him. The strange man explains the spine-tingling stories of Krishnadas’ forefathers to him. One of the forefathers, Chirakkal Kothuval (Arya) was a gallant fighter who avowed to boot out da Gama and company from his land. Though the fighter manages to menace da Gama, he eventually succumbs to a gunshot on board da Gama’s ship, in an attempt to save the detainees on a hijacked ship Miri. In the process da Gama wrecks Miri with cannon shots and kills all the passengers. But Kothuval’s young son Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar escapes from the ship and gets ashore. While the boy is dismayed at the sight of the corpses of the passengers being washed ashore on the beach, he is brought back to senses by a local boy Vavvali (played later by Prabhudeva) who then takes him to his house. There begins a life-long friendship. Kelu makes an urumi (coiled sword) from the gold ornaments of the people aboard Miri, who had ceded them to da Gama, begging for their lives.
Kelu (Prithviraj) grows up into a well-built young man who always nurtured his mission– to lop off da Gama’s head with his golden urumi. In his quest, he comes across many people, starting with Chirakkal Bala (Nithya Menon) whom he and Vavvali save from the hands of a few scoundrels. Both the friends impress upon the Chirakkal King (Amol Gupte) and receive laurels and decorations from the king. Love sprouts in the minds of Vavvali and Bala. Kelu then chances upon Princess Ayesha (Genelia D’Souza), a martial arts expert who was already a threat to the Portuguese. Kelu saves Ayesha and her group of women from the Chirakkal clinks. Bit by bit, Ayesha starts believing in Kelu and joins him in his life and mission. Their collective effort to kill da Gama, and the influence of the tale on Krishnadas’ decision to say “no” to the proposal form the rest of the story.
The film is crafted so astoundingly that it succeeds in taking us back to the period in which the notional events unfolded. The magical visuals hesitate to leave our minds even after days of watching it. The hazy and scenic Malshej Ghats add to the visual pleasure, and so do the costumes and light sources used in the film. Director Santosh Sivan has paid attention to make the effects come out original; be it the roped-up fight scenes, the acts of dismounting from horses while evading swords, or the floating vessels in the sea – all looked natural and uncomplicated. Kudos to Shanker Ramakrishnan for making a screenplay that is crisp and dialogues that are so relieving that despite being a period movie, Urumi doesn’t have too many dialogues for the hero for personal aggrandizement. Deepak Dev’s music is special, and you can feel it along the entire length of the movie.
Casting is brilliant. The filmmakers deserve all the credit for their selection of Prabhudeva, Genelia, Nithya, and Amol for their respective roles. Prithviraj with long locks of hair and muscle overload appears a tailor-made hunk as Kelu. Prabhudeva steals the show with his playful expressions and ingenuous dialogue delivery. Genelia equals Prithviraj in fight scenes and sometimes enraptures the audience with the rubber-like flexibility of her wafer-thin build. The most beautiful Nithya Menon appears the best cover girl on earth as the puckish Chirakkal Bala. Vidya Balan’s was not an important presence in the movie, and was intended only for an item number in which she bowls over the protagonists with her tantalizing moves! The presence of Arya, Amol Gupte, Jagathy Sreekumar, Ankur Khanna, along with Robin Pratt complete a brilliant front row cast of characters. Pratt looked exactly like da Gama as seen in the latter’s portraits.
The bad? Actually, Estevao da Gama (played by Alexx O’Neill) was much younger when his dad Vasco journeyed to India the second and third times. He was only 19 when Vasco met his death! The film shows Estevao to be a more matured man, which didn’t look fit! The film moves rapidly in the initial few scenes that you may find it a bit uneasy to follow the story. Genelia had lips, but no proper lip sync! She didn’t seem to have put an effort to even open her lips in some scenes even when her dialogues where hitting the ear drums like slugs! And, I still don’t understand why Santosh Sivan decided to use the image of an old pistol in the movie title in posters!
Urumi is a film that colligates two generations circuitously, against the backcloth of foreign trade. The older generation sinks into trouble by getting dragged into a trade proposal by the Portuguese and the newer generation infuses itself to pass up another trade proposal. There is a striking demarcation between the new generation that draws enjoyment from the alluring aroma of modernism and money, and the old generation that was rich in spice crops, culture and pride. Yet some common qualities are subsumed in both generations – the passion for the motherland, and the resolve not to lose it.
A movie is a director’s. But some movies are the screenwriters’, some are the actors’, and yet some are the technicians’. If there ever is a Malayalam movie that is a combination of all these, call it Urumi! I give the film 8.5 out of 10. Go experience it!