Crossroad (2017) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


‘Crossroad’ is a loosely screwed in ensemble,  pieces of which keep falling off every time it tries to punch in a point. It’s unlikely to be remembered as a benchmark in portmanteau films, and leads you into the hum-ho zone in no time. Strike off those last three shorts, and you might literally find yourself stranded on the crossroads with this one.


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The unambiguously worded tagline of ‘Crossroad’ – a portmanteau movie celebrating feminity – is one that does not offer scope for speculations. Jafar Panahi and ‘The Circle’ (2000) ring back in your mind as you settle down to find out what ‘Crossroad’ holds in store. Seven shorts and around one hundred and five minutes later, you are still reminiscing about Panahi and how fulfilling an experience an adroitly complied anthology film could be.

‘Crossroad’ is far from all that, and has a tough time kick starting its proceedings with Madhupal’s ‘Oru Ratriyude Kooli’. A feature that would probably be remembered for a few brilliant night shots of the cityscape, the first film in ‘Crossroad’ has Padmapriya playing a sex worker who has been duped by her customer the previous night. Thereon, it makes do by making a few fuddled statements on motherhood, none of which reach anwhere.

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Nemom Pushparaj’s ‘Kaval’ is ruined by the theatrics that overpower its dialogues and scenes, and has Priyanka playing Devi, an army man’s widow who has skilfully managed to keep the news of her husband’s demise a secret from the prying  world around her. Vacillating between the dramatic and the more dramatic, ‘Kaval’ barely manages to stand guard from the staged moments that ebb in.

Nayana Suryan’s ‘Pakshikalude Manam’ has a woman birdwatcher (Mythili) embarking on a journey into the forests, hopeful of catching a glimpse of an elusive bird that hides the colours of the rainbow under its wings. Punctured with oddly worded statements, the short has an affected air to it that is partially alleviated by a startling climax.

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‘Mounam’, directed by Babu Thiruvalla has a young girl named Sally (Manasa Radhakrishnan) coerced into taking the solemn vows by her family. All set to turn a nun, Sally laments the unpredictability of life. The final scene is probably the easiest way out, both for the film and Sally herself, and it strikes you as a narrative compromise, more than anything else.

Asok R Nath’s ‘Badar’ has Mamta Mohandas playing Badaruneesa, a Muslim woman who has taken a Hindu septuagenarian under her fold. When he passes away, and his son refuses to light his pyre, Badar steps in, and asserts the religious humanist view to express transcendence to a fellow being. Philosophical in thought, and yet mundane in execution sums up the short that ‘Badar’ is.

The latter half of ‘Crossroad’ starts off with Albert’s ‘Mudra’ that talks of an old friendship re-established – that between the renowned classical dancer Gaya (Isha Talwar) and  her long lost childhood friend (Anjali Aneesh). Here is a  film that has its Mudras all over the place, with a narrative that lacks sensibilities and a story that holds no promise.

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The ‘Lake House’ follows where a young woman (Richa Panai) sits in wait, in a large mansion beside a lake, for her husband (Rahul Madhav) who finally arrives on a canoe, as the night sets in.  Much to her disappointment, he insists that he needs to leave soon despite her keen requests that he stay. Sasi Paravoor’s short is one that is marred by the inconsistencies in its script and which strikes you as an exercise in vain.

With seven out of the ten films thus having bitten the dust, the prospects ahead look quite bleak. And it is then, that a quivering Punnassery Kanchana walks in, and leads us on to her apartment on the fifteenth floor of a godforsaken skyscraper, where she lives all alone. In a few nifty sketches, Pradeep Nair unfolds the solitude that envelops her life, and the deafeningly loud silence that chokes her from all around. When she strikes up a rapport with a vagabond puppy that strays in, ‘Kodesian’ puts across a pertinent statement on senility, isolation and gloom, and emerges as a gem in its own right.

Avira Rebecca’s ‘Cherivu’ follows up the optimistic ‘Kodesian’ act with a humorous take on the insecurities experienced by a lone woman traveller (Srinda). Travelling with a sinister looking taxi driver (Manoj K Jayan) along a deserted, foggy road that leads to Calvary Mount at night, she unearths a strategy of her own to keep the scary demons inside (and probably lurking outside) at bay. An easy watch with a few delightful moments, Rebecca’s film and its cheeky observations on trust stand out from the rest of the lot.

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The final short in the anthology is ‘Pinpe Nadannaval’, a Bobbitt tale directed by Lenin Rajendran that instantly grabs your attention more on account of the uncharacteristic narrative style that it adopts, than its germane content. A young bride (Anjana Chandran) who has had to bear the brunt of her sadistic husband’s sexual fantasies, decides to use her chopping skills on him. Her traumatic experience unfolds through a delightful exposition on stage, where she takes on multiple roles in a solo performance. Thematically significant and structurally striking, Rajendran’s film marks a provocative end to the piece.

The true fruits of this lengthy cinematic experience thus lie towards the very end, and it does remain an excruciating wait. The celebration of feminity remains more of a tagline in at least a few of these shorts, and while it remains that the chief characters are women, the focus does shift away from feminity multiple times.

‘Crossroad’ could be remembered for the two sturdy performances that make it worth a watch – that of Punnassery Kanchana and of Anjana Chandran – while Srinda, Manasa Radhakrishnan and Mamta Mohandas leave competent marks of their own. Surprisingly an ever dependable Padmapriya looks ill-at-ease, Priyanka plays it way over the top, Mythili appears dishevelled and sounds strained, Isha Talwar and Anjali Aneesh appear wasted in immaterial roles and Richa Pani roams about wholly clueless.

‘Crossroad’ is a loosely screwed in ensemble, pieces of which keep falling off every time it tries to punch in a point. It’s unlikely to be remembered as a benchmark in portmanteau films, and leads you into the hum-ho zone in no time. Strike off those last three shorts, and you might literally find yourself stranded on the crossroads with this one.


Verdict: Disappointing


 

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