Puzhu Movie Review: A spectacular Mammootty shines in an engrossing character study
Puzhu is a beast of its own that relies on a ballsy, enigmatic turn from Mammootty, who owns every living fiber of the one-hour fifty-six-minute runtime.
Star Cast: Mammootty, Parvathy Thiruvothu.
Streaming Platform: SonyLIV
Star Rating : 3.5/5
Review by Arjun Menon
Puzhu aspires to be a lot of things and ends up being a subversive cinematic experience that carries the weight of its sum parts somewhat, owing to a riveting leading man, who delves deep into the dark spaces of the human mind and pretty much digs deeper to the unknown plains of physical acting. The film is set as a drama between a forceful, compulsively unfair father making his young son’s life a living hell by his obsessive, unhealthy ways of parenting.
The film is designed as a character study of the unsympathetic guy filtered through the lens of the social, political and cultural degradation of our regressive norms and values. Puzhu is a movie that juxtaposes toxic parenting with the psychological decay of an individual clinging on dangerously to his stubborn convictions and beliefs in the face of the slightest need for change and self-revival.
The film is structured in the initial half like a domestic drama focusing on the tumultuous relationship between the father and son, we get beautifully staged scenes that play on loop in the first hour where we get to identify with the little quirks and creepiness that define the central character who is referred to by different shorthand names by different characters throughout the film. The boredom and blandness of repeating inconsequential details lends much power to the use of cinematic time, making us, the viewer uncomfortable with the events unfolding.
Ratheena, the director on her debut, banks on her ability to capture moments of silences and stark contradictions with the same tenderness by which she captures the more loud, political underpinnings of Harshad’s well-contained screenplay.
The filmmaking is dialled down and Ratheena trusts her performers to take the central stage with Theni Eashwar poetically rendering the most mundane frames with his beautifully orchestrated zoom in’s and tracking shots, that is carefully composed to suit the highly dynamic world, inhabited by these characters. However, the lived-in, awkward look and feel of the film give way to a sense of wonder at the curve balls that the writers throws at you one after the other.
The uneven doses of paranoia, caste politics and islamophobia all thrown in together, often time suffocates under the weight of its own self-imposed seriousness further complicated by a cliched, formulaic revenge plot point, that belongs in another movie and feels out of this place in an otherwise marvellous experiment in a character piece.
Puzhu is a beast of its own that relies on a ballsy, enigmatic turn from Mammootty, who owns every living fiber of the one-hour fifty-six-minute runtime. This is the kind of performative role, that any living actor dreams of, with its limitless possibilities at subtlety and expressiveness, a hard balance to strike within the confines of the story world.
This film goes on to deliver an acting 101 with a star who is still willing to visit the dark ugly corner of the human mind. Mammootty antihero lends life to a peerless interpretation of a physically keen yet mentally deplorable man at the edge of our moral scales and judgements. This is the kind of immersive performance that stands out not for eccentric, overscaled loudness but sets up space for the nuanced, layered reading of the characters' journey.
Achhol (Parvathy) as the estranged sister who chose her love over caste differences, also turn into a toned-down, observant part that serves as the moral high ground to which Mammootty’s elder brother aspires to but never for once breaches or even surfaces for that matter. The rest of the supporting parts too stand strong with some nice touches like the ageing, desperate ex conman Paul Varghese (Kunjan) who is the victim of Kuttan’s ( Mammootty) unending paranoia like fit at finding an unknown killer that leads to a tragic end of sorts. The only thing that felt totally inorganic in an otherwise well mannered, noble experiment was the inclusion of the revenge subplot that derails the film hard-earned grittiness with forceful peppering in of islamophobia to a narrative that is already overstuffed with a well-maintained critique on caste and hate politics.
This plot diversion seems more like an afterthought that was never thought out fully in the first place but later stitched on to fill in any vacant narrative tissue that needed some tightening. However, Unda stands tall for its peerless, breathtaking central performance that negates all the minor hiccups along the way to revealing an unknown facet of an actor celebrating 50 plus years in the cinema industry, who redefines his craft and never lets go of a venue for self-renewal and preservation.
Watch the trailer below: