Despite all the flamboyant oratory that most of the characters abundantly indulge in, ‘Pathinettam Padi’ offers you an ascendant climb that is draining to the core. And what’s most disappointing is that there is nothing much awaiting you right on top, out there at the end of the strenuous climb.
Shanker Ramakrishnan’s ’Pathinettam Padi’ has its fair share of drifting ideas that are thrown together haphazardly in a tale that struggles to find its purpose. Mixing up a whole lot of themes together – schooling and the process of growing up, to start with – and oozing dollops of high school nostalgia all over it, ‘Pathinettam Padi’ has a couple of hits, but mostly misses that leaves you with a ho-hum feel at the end of the show.
It’s an elaborate cast that the film maker has employed for his ambitious film, that has at its core the ongoing battle between two schools – Government Model School and the unnamed International School – in the capital city of Kerala. It’s the 90’s, and while the Model school boys have the audacious Ayyappan (Akshay Radhakrishnan) at the helm of affairs, Ashwin Vasudev (Ashwin Gopinath) is chosen as the Head Boy of the year at the International School.
The gang fights and battles start off with aplomb, at what seems like an interschool sports event. Thereafter, it’s a never ending series, with one scuffle following the other, and as the schools give it out to each other on the campus, inside a double decker bus, on the streets, and where not, this suspiciously starts looking like a long winding brawl sans reason.
’Pathinettam Padi’ thrives on that generalization, despite its several attempts to deny it, that equates poverty with integrity and almost celebrates the inconsiderateness that is associated with affluence. Perhaps there is even some truth to it, but these sweeping statements that it so flagrantly makes, robs it of the realism that it so much wants to attain.
Accordingly we have a group of good hearted souls at the Government school, who strive to get a school bus up and running, and a bunch of insensitive brutes at the International school, who spend the better part of their waking time, sniffing up something up their noses, and the rest of it, burning down the bus that was the Model school boys’ joy and pride.
Plot wise, there is hardly any advancement being made, except for the several years that have passed by, and the celebrated actors who arrive to take over the younger boys’ place. While Ayyappan (Arya) has made it to the Army, Ashwin (Pritvhiraj) runs the School of Joy, an educational institution that has earned repute for its very distinctive ideologies.
Many of the threads start off gallantly, only to disappear into thin air in no time. We have, for instance, symptoms of a blossoming love tale, when Ayyappan finds himself smitten by a girl at the International school. The girl and the tale itself vanishes soon, and so do many other similar characters who are there one moment, and gone the next.
To me, Akshay Radhakrishnan is the man of the hour, and with a performance that has got machismo written all over it, he very easily pulls off a convincing performance even in the midst of casualties that the script drops him in. And of course, there is Ambi Neenasam who plays Suran in the film – a sure bundle of raw talent to watch out for. There are cameos galore – from Mammootty, Prithviraj and Arya – that are at best adequate given the way their roles have been penned, several other promising young actors in brief and not so brief roles, the charming Chandunath who makes a pleasant debut and the gorgeous Ahana Krishnakumar who flits by like a breath of fresh air.
Sudeep Elamon’s frames are extraordinary, and the background score by A H Kaashif resourcefully crafted. Despite all the flamboyant oratory that most of the characters abundantly indulge in, ‘Pathinettam Padi’ offers you an ascendant climb that is draining to the core. And what’s most disappointing is that there is nothing much awaiting you right on top, out there at the end of the strenuous climb.
PS: Turns out to be a throwback film in several ways though, given the distinctive maroon tie, the belt with the yellow stripes, the house tees, the semi arched school building, and several other much familiar names at the unspecified International school that are dropped throughout the film. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see a school on screen that’s unmistakably similar to the one where you had spent a fair share of your adolescent years at, a few decades back.