Odiyan was the most speculated movie of the year and everyone was awaiting its release. When its poster was released two years ago, it had created a lot of buzz as it featured Mohanlal in clean shave and his body trimmed down to look younger. It was reported that he would shed few kilos to play the role. And surprisingly when he trimmed down, I was in hope (Or all of Kerala) that an excellent movie was in the making, or why Mohanlal (at 58) would spent almost one and half year for this movie and going through all the physical (or surgical) routine to get into shape of a character. So, I was waiting for Odiyan and to be mesmerized by his magic. And when the movie was within days to be released, the director also began making all tall claims, it’s going to be Kerala’s answer for Bahubali and so on. And when the movie was finally released on Dec 14, by afternoon Mixed and Negative reviews were flowing in and by night it came to a worse level. All my expectations were now at rock bottom, so I went in the next day with least expectation.
Now, by this time everyone knows, that Odiyan is the mythical story of people who were hired goons to scare people in the middle of night. Its said that Odiyans used magical tricks and they were able to transform into animals they wanted and buffalo being their major trump. The thread itself was so interesting but what the director delivers is a half-baked attempt of the myth with a revenge story which had already being played out umpteen times. It had a theme which could have been made as an edge of the seat thriller, but the director and screen writer chose to do it as a drama with action in parts. And that decision misfired badly. The screenplay written by HariKrishnan (National award winner for ‘Kutty Srank’) was tepid and the dialogues in some portions was worse. Also, the nonlinear narration which was used to incite the tension and add layers to the story ended up a damper because of the amateurish film making. And some portions towards the climax should have been left out in the editing table. The placing of the song Kondoram (which was soothing and well shot except the color tone), was absurd, killing the mood the film was heading to.
Now coming to the positives in this movie, of which there are only a few. Prakash Raj delivers one of the best villainous performance in Malayalam cinema in recent times. It was pure cinema gold villainy. Shammi Thilakan lending the voice was so apt (Remember he dubbed for Shekaran in Devasuram). Also, I hoped had there been few exciting banters exchanged between Ravunni (the character Prakash Raj plays) and Odiyan, it would have lightened up the screen.
Mohanlal, was able to see the actor as well as the performer in him, but in bits. The physical effort put in was so much, which we can easily see in the screen but when we see the whole picture, I felt so sad for him, all the hype and excitement was all for this lost cause (Can’t imagine the response of the fans who went for the 4:30 AM show). The actor was giving in everything for a movie, while the movie was doing a little for himself.
Music by Jayachandran was superb (I could write an article only about the songs itself) and background score by Sam CS (of Vikram Vedha fame) was also complementing the movie. Action choreography was a big letdown, or my expectations was too high for Peter Hein. After the movie had ended I was thinking of the goosebumps his stunts raised for Pulimurugan, but none of the fights in this didn’t even excite me. Or was it the directors fault for not able to transform the effort into the screen.
The movie is a good case of what it could have been and what it turned out to be. Have the movie been little trimmed and well directed. It could have been a gem of a movie.
* * * * *
After thoughts of Odiyan (Spoilers ahead)
- The Timeline
The non-linear story telling made me confused. Though the current story is set in 1999 and then we go back in time to see few episodes in the past. It took me some time to understand that these were episodic things and those weren’t in chronological order. And this episodic way of going back and forth just ruined the flow of the story. The placing of the Song Kondorram Kondorram, being the prime example of it. When the movie was heading to the climax, the movie veered into the romantic track. It was just absurd. Had the love track was told in the beginning, it could have really helped the movie. And I found out later that those episodic flashbacks are each characters POV of Odiyan.
2. The Identity and Tricks of Odiyan
The scene when he finds out that Odiyan is always with him. He realizes he can’t get out of Odiyan from Manikyan. The scene inside the home, showed us the actor in Mohanlal which we rarely sees now a days. Manikyan is in agony and pain. And the song ‘Nenjile‘ which follows afterwards, fully captures the desperation of him and the shadow effect done during was superb.
The tricks Odiyan uses was the heart of the movie, but the director failed to use it to mileage the movie. The only part I loved was when he chases Ezhuthachan (Nandu). It was one of the best stretches of the movie. And tricks used like transforming into Buffalo and other animals which should have been exciting failed to live up to the expectations.
- Caste and Politics
Odiyan is from a low caste and Prabha (Manju Warrier) is from traditional Nair family. Though Prabha had feelings for Odiyan and she expresses to him, but he doesn’t feel the same, as he tells her he’s not a normal human and he doesn’t want her life to be wasted. So, he purposely ditches her, out of love.
Manju Warrier, She’s a teacher teaching in the local school and she married a Soldier who’s a drunkard as well. And she was no qualms of her husband’s habit. She had to mouth one of the worst ever dialogues written and the trolls doing the rounds on the net are a testimony to it. It’s a sad state to see such a talented actress getting slammed online, though I have to agree, she was over reacting in some portions.
4.The Superhero Odiyan
In the beginning of the movie, the younger folk of Thenkurishi mocks the old Odiyan calling him Superhero and Daredevil. And as the movie progresses we get to see Mohanlal paying tribute to many superheroes.
Odiyan and Batman has many similarities as both operate in night, so we can’t blame that the fights look identical. Then there is this dialogue which Muthappan (grandpa of Odiyan) tells to young Manikyan. To conquer fear, you must become the fear. Ring a bell, it’s the same dialogue said to Bruce Wayne when he’s training to be a vigilante in Batman Begins. In one we scene we see Odiyan with furling blanket and in a split second I was thinking- it was reminiscent of Batman standing atop a building. And completing the Batman reference Mohanlal comes dressed as Bat in the climax.
And the young Manikyan does a small Flash kind of running in one of the action sequence. Then we get the major superhero reference, as the Manikyan pulls off The Ghost riders kind of Act in the climax. Then I was thinking was there any other movie reference I could chip in. The older Odiyan flaunts hair like Jason Momoa and in the intro shot Manikyam goes down the Ganges to save a lady from drowning, and our Superhero Aquaman aka Manikan saves her.
All these superhero comparisons were just pun intended. Though the superhero Odiyan could save his girl and her family but he surely failed to live up to the promise and expectations.