The time of the saints :: It is the time for the saints, and it was proved by one of the best satirical movies in Malayalam belonging to this century. There was indeed a saint in that movie, and it was Pranchiyettan and the Saint. Now, with the word “punyalan” translated as the saint, this movie also tries to take on the saint + trichur slang which shaped that wonderful satire. The saint is for sale this time, as our hero sells “Saint Incense Sticks” which is how “Punyalan Agarbathis” would get translated, and also if we consider it in another way, it is the sale of a useful saint imagery that happens here, now just as a Christian saint, but rather as the saintly figure in the centre which gets explored so many times, mostly remembered by this year’s movie Immanuel with its title character and Pranchiyettan was himself nothing less than a saint. There is still a lot of interest for the saintly figures among our usual audience, even as the hero who beats up people and says vulgar dialogues might come back any time now – I just hope they stay dead.
What is it about? :: Hailing from Trichur, Joy Thakkolkaran (Jayasurya) is a man who keeps trying his luck in many business ventures, but none of them really working. His latest attempt is on creating incense sticks from elephant dung, and it is named Punyalan Agarbathis hoping that Saint George will help him in his attempt to make it big. He wanders around looking for collecting what he calls “raw materials”. His wife, Anu (Nyla Usha) supports him with a regular job, but it is often insufficient for what he has to spend for his business. He is helped by his long time friend and assistant Greenu Sharma (Aju Varghese) and a driver Abhaya Kumar (Sreejith Ravi) as well as two workers who rarely works. But he has to fight a lot of narrow minded people, politicians and after all, fate which means that his troubles might never end. He is forced to spend most of his time in the court seeking justice, and his ideas keep getting struck down by destiny’s lightning, as he begins to feel that the whole world is against him. The story deals with how he finally survives in his battle.
The defence of Punyalan Agarbathis :: Well, the defence of Punyalan Agarbathis is easy up-to an extent. Other than its social relevance which is mostly about the tragic situation of the common man and the social evil which is harthal, the whole thing is about fun. The simplicity of the movie is worth appreciating. There are lots of funny dialogues stored in between. The beginning credits scene itself is well-crafted with scenes from Trichur. Most of the characters are interesting, and the movie has successfully built up a very good first half after its interesting beginnings. It has moments which makes one wonder how more awesome it can get, and keeps the audience asking for more. The movie’s biggest advantage might be its name, and its trailer which keeps the audience interested, and once the movie starts, there is also the ability to keep close to that standard till the end of first half. The songs are fine and the cinematography is admirable. The saint hasn’t avoided this movie, that is for sure.
Claws of flaw :: The movie seems to create the idea that there is a saint in most of the common man who suffers due to the rich, corrupt hands of the same society, but that kind of fades a few minutes after the first half. By that time, movie had deviated from its wonderful world to an abyss of incapacitated story with the undercurrents of that logic which decided that it is better to leave the flick and go to Mars and stay with Martians. There was always the chance to go astray right from the beginning, but it happened only in the second half, and the way they tried to finish it quickly almost as if a limited offer deus ex machina is used, is a real blemish on the movie. It was more like a cargo ship with great items on board going adrift and losing its good cargo by the time it reaches the destination. Why this sudden disorientation? Even if there was no happy ending to the story, may be if they had just let the leading character miss out and leave his business, it wouldn’t have been a lesser level second half or ending.
Performers of the soul :: If I have to tell who is the performer of the day, that would be a surprise, as Jayasurya is the man in form yet again. He transforms into another interesting character with ease, and Aju Varghese is a wonderful support to him. Sreejith Ravi also contributes to the fun in an avatar he is not usually seen in. Nyla Usha joins the party with charm, and Rachana Narayanankutty does a great job, both serious and funny sides handled with care. Innocent and Tesni Khan also contributes with their relatively small presence, even as we would have liked to see a lot more from the former. T.G. Ravi was there for the last Trichur based satirical comedy and he is there to impress us yet again. Idavela Babu is here as a villain for a change and doing a wonderful job, even as the evil face doesn’t just belong to him, but to so many forces of the society. You have to like Sunil Sukhada in his job. The acting department is so close to perfection, and the other areas of the movies are well supported, yes Mala Aravindan’s funny KAPA character included.
Social relevance :: We have had many movies of social relevance, with Sandesam, Varavelpu and Vellanakalude Naadu quite a long time ago, and Arabikkatha, Passenger and Pranchiyettan and the Saint not too far away from the present. Punyalan Agarbathis falls behind all these movies, but is the next movie which comes to the list. The movie takes on harthal as a social disturbance right from the beginning stages itself. The assertion on the harthal stands tall among others, and another focus is on the corrupt politics and the plight of the common man, and also about how difficult it is to begin an industry in Kerala. But the use of elephant dung there might be strange, but still okay enough as the movie is not to be taken that seriously, and the use of such an insignificant and free thing means that one can’t even try little things in a world of corruption and among influential people who are there to create trouble. If it was presented a little differently, with a better second half and a much better climax, the movie would have been remembered for a very long time.
How it finishes :: Ranjith Sankar has given us messages through his movies, and his best shall yet remain Passenger, a fine Molly Aunty Rocks and a below average Arjunan Saakshi. All of them had something other than the story to tell us, and this one is not different either. The elephant dung thing gets irritating after some time, and you know at which point the movie losses focus. Otherwise, this is the right Malayalam movie for the weekend, if we consider the reports. As the title Bicycle Thieves hurts my feelings about Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist drama and the name Escape from Uganda makes one feel worse, with the only thing further strange being the name Namboothiri Yuvavu @ 43 – this movie is a winner right from the title. The reports also seem to suggest that there is something in the title that is carried into the movie. Still, if you are not fixed on watching a Malayalam movie, I would suggest Frozen as the movie of the week. Meanwhile, our desire to watch another Pranchiyettan and the Saint remains unfulfilled.
PS: The leading character in Pranchiyettan and the Saint was Francis, and here we have the character as Joy. Something tells me that next satires based on Trichur might having the protagonists, as Jos and Paul, and you can make a guess why I predict so! 😀
Release date: 29h November 2013
Running time: 160 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Ranjith Sankar
Starring: Jayasurya, Nyla Usha, Aju Varghese, Innocent, Rachana Narayanankutty, Sreejith Ravi, T.G. Ravi, Tesni Khan, Mala Aravindan, Idavela Babu, Sunil Sukhada, Shivaji Guruvayur
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.