Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil (2018) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


Tinu Pappachan in ‘Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil’ seeks to craft an ultimate jailbreak film, and constructs a sweaty, scorching hell of a prison at Kottayam for the purpose. He then gets his inmates ready for the final getaway on a midnight express, and takes us along on their trail to escape, that has its fair share of moments and a few non-moments.


swathanthryam-ardharathriyil-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

Tinu Pappachan in ‘Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil’ seeks to craft an ultimate jailbreak film, and constructs a sweaty, scorching hell of a prison at Kottayam for the purpose. He then gets his inmates ready for the final getaway on a midnight express, and takes us along on their trail to escape, that has its fair share of moments and a few non-moments.

Jacob Varghese (Antony Varghese) ends up in jail, after having murdered a police officer, but has no intentions whatsoever to stay in there. He is quick to gain the support of his fellow inmate Simon (Vinayakan), and together they set down to the task of tunnelling their way out, with Devassy (Chemban Vinod) and a few others for company.

swathanthryam-ardharathriyil-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

Tinu works on the paranoia that builds within the inmates’ minds and spills it out over the viewers as well, as the D-day inches near. There is even a point when fear and mistrust threaten to overrule the optimism that they clutch on to, but the vision of a free world out there keeps these men going, and nothing else, matters.

There are a few genuinely amusing moments as well, like the one when one of the inmates who has had enough with the routine fish curry, decides to try out a fry recipe instead. With little resources available in the cell, he makes do with whatever is accessible, and comes up with a master plan that flashes by in a scene, but which is sure to leave a smile on your lips.

That said, ‘Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil’ is no Don Siegel film, and neither is the Kottayam Prison anywhere as formidable as Alcatraz. But Tinu Pappachan does strike us as a visual artist with immense flair in his debut film, and displays a dexterity in working up an edgy tone that keeps you occupied, despite the occasional hold-ups in between.

swathanthryam-ardharathriyil-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

And these hold-ups are mostly on account of the script that dawdles every once in a while. There are the sequences that involve a lawyer (Lijo Jose Pellissery) that come across as exceedingly protracted, as well as scenes that involve Jacob’s friend Charlie, that barely pass muster. The sequence involving Betty (Aswathy) getting attacked by an unruly mob and eventually ending up where she does, is a tad less convincing as well. And as regards the grand escape plan itself, plenty of reasonable queries arise, many of which aren’t provided answers.

Perhaps the questions as to how justifiable the actions of the protagonists are would be discussed, but they hold little relevance in the kind of film that ‘Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil’ is. There certainly isn’t a glorification of the crime here, neither is a justification for the crime offered – rather, the focus is entirely on the audacious strategy that a group of men design to work their way to freedom, and their pasts, barring one or two, aren’t even dwelled upon.

swathanthryam-ardharathriyil-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

Remarkable performances are there throughout – Antony Varghese, who vouches that Pepe was no mere stroke of luck, Vinayakan who is as dependable as ever, Chemban Vinod who makes a late, but noteworthy appearance, and  a whole lot of fresh faces as well, all of whom are really good. Girish Gangadharan and his stellar camera work and an astounding background score by Deepak Alexander ensure that you bite off whatever is left of your nails.

 ‘Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil’ would be remembered as a buoyant debut of filmmaker who does show a lot of promise. Despite an occasionally clunky route to escape, it’s a spirited film that holds a few sweet rewards within its folds.


Verdict: Above Average


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