Marakkar: Arabikandalinte Simham Movie Review: An expertly mounted period drama devoid of hyper nationalism

Updated on Dec 03, 2021 11:08 PM IST  |  286.5K
   
Marakkar: Arabikandalinte Simham Movie Review
Marakkar: Arabikandalinte Simham Movie Review: An expertly mounted period drama devoid of hyper nationalism.
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Starring: Mohanlal, Sunil Shetty, Manju Warrier, Arjun, Prabhu.

Rating: 3.5/5

Release: Theatrical release.

Anyone remotely following Malayalam cinema knows the pre-release hype and speculation around the Marakkar: Arabikandalinte Simham - the historic epic ensemble, probably the most expensive Malayalam cinema made till day. The finished film has been in the cans for the last two years and at a point seemed like yet another direct streaming release owing to the bleak pandemic induced lockdown of the theatre business. The big-ticket epic has been in the making for many years with an array of stars and directors like Mammootty and Santosh Sivan attached at various stages eying for their own interpretation of the revolutionary naval commander who stood up against foreign invaders, however with Mohanlal and Priyadarshan finally realising their long-harboured dream in a scale unheard of by Malayalam cinema standards.

The much-loved Mohanlal – Priyadarshan duo who has delivered countless classic comedies from the past, however this time choosing to take off from where they left us with their ambitious pre-independence drama Kalapani, that released in the year 1997. That feels like an eternity now but the technical finesse and storytelling ambition of the film is still revered across all ages and the film holds up even today and Marakkar seems to be the spiritual successor to Kalapani in ways this almost feels like an second installment of a series of films based on heroes from our independence movement, although the likeness pretty much ends there for both films.

Marakkar is not the usual chest thumbing, testosterone fuelled narrative of the historical movie mastered by the likes of Akshay Kumar nor is it a low key dramatization of the life of one of our rather unsung heroes from our freedom struggle, Priyadarshan enriches the world of the film with a sense of event spectacle yet for once never loses sight of the personal journey of the leading man, who goes through an arch of the savior of the masses. The first half of the movie takes it time to setup the myth surrounding the character of Kunjali ( Mohanlal) who is sort of an outlaw to the local royal lineage and a hero safeguarding the interests of the people. 

The film is populated by players who break into random monologues describing the mysterious legend surrounding Kunjali yet we don’t get a sense of the man from close quarters as he feels more like a mythical figure more than a well fleshed out person. The flashback scenes featuring Young Kunjali played by Pranav Mohanlal sort of does a better job in giving us a feel of things to come yet the feather light nature of the central drives a major part of the first act and carries little momentum to the halfway point.

With all the spectacle and eye candy cash shots aplenty the film clearly levels its ambition in each passing frame, cramming great details that enhances the period. The film is structured in vignettes of narrative flourishes and the sections involving the war time strategies and double crosses match the production qualities of any esteemed foreign production and often invites such inevitable comparisons. Priyadarshan is an incredibly visual filmmaker and the vibrant aesthetic choices takes central stage and writing takes the backstage in  scheme of things. The black tinged color palette, rousing background score and symmetrical framing choices elevates the mood of the narrative but the quieter moments fall flat and feel rushed.

Mohanlal shoulder’s the movie and easily slips in to the mind space of the often times misrepresented revolutionary caught between past trauma and collective responsibility towards his people. The screenplay in its iteration of his personality and thus keeps the central character as the token troubled avenger with throwaway lines hinting at his emotional trauma but never for once stopping to dig any deeper, as to find out what keeps him ticking. The rest of the supporting characters too deliver loud, on the nose lines with a wide palette of distinguishable accents but never raises the emotional stakes at any point of time. 

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