At the end of it all, ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ strikes you as a film that does only partial justice to the storyline that deserved a much better treatment. As it is, it is more of a fable, the potential of which has only been partly explored.
Ullas Maash (Biju Menon) in Lal Jose’s ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ is in more ways than one, an icon of an ideology that by going for the extremes, threatens to usurp the very soul that harbours it. A self proclaimed atheist who takes to proving the non-existence of a supreme power at public gatherings and the author of the book ‘Deivam Enna Vyavasayam’, Ullas is a man who gets disturbed even by the most popular of cultural events, if he feel that it threatens the beliefs that he holds close.
The kind who would insist that the Onam celebrations be rechristened as Vilaveduppu Maholsavam, Ullas Maash is mostly revered by the inhabitants of the party village. However, he abhors the very presence of Vavachi (Saranjith), a man who had stabbed a member of the rival party in a fit of extreme aggravation and vengeance, and who has taken to alcoholism ever since.
‘Nalpathiyonnu’ is thematically promising, and has at its core the strains of a satire that makes fun of how easily rationality – the excess or the lack of it – upturns the immediate reality around. Spinning around in perennial confusion, its lead character undergoes multiple altering experiences before he is able to view things as they are.
The light hearted, ironical moments in ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ are many, and for a while, it does seem like Lal Jose has a winner in his hands. But this enthusiasm does not last very long, and the films starts dawdling around in vague circles, ending up as a compromise between the different streams of thought that it had set out to satirize.
There is too much of a focus on Vavachi and his wife Suma (Dhanya), that initially does shine a sparkle, but which comes across as daft after a while. In another film with a different intent, it could have had an impact, but in ‘Nalpathiyonnu’, it merely comes across as a series of scenes that merely add to the running time.
There is also a fragile romantic track that involves Ullas and Bhagyasooyam (Nimisha Sajayan), that takes up a lot of screen space and time. It momentarily serves the purpose of pointing it out in jest that awkwardness and illogicality that pervades Ullas’ decisions, but does not in any other matter contribute productively to it.
The climax appears all staged in addition to seeming a bit too sudden, and while it does provide a upright ending to the film, it also appears the weakest part. It does remain that the damages caused are minimum, and by bringing in spirituality and making some very hazy statements on beliefs and faith, ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ manages to somehow pull down the curtains.
Biju Menon is extremely efficient as Ullas, and Saranjith does an exceptional job as Vavachi. Among the women actors, Dhanya performs remarkable well, while Nimisha Sajayan appears miscast in a role that requires little effort. ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ probably has the best visuals of Sabarimala that we have seen on screen as yet, and cinematographer S Kumar ensures that the spirit of pilgrimage is retained to the hilt in the visuals.
There could very well be diverse opinions regarding the manner in which opinions lie scattered all over the place. At the end of it all, ‘Nalpathiyonnu’ strikes you as a film that does only partial justice to the storyline that deserved a much better treatment. As it is, it is more of a fable, the potential of which has only been partly explored.
Verdict: Mixed Bag