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Pulimurugan Review: Little Here But Technical Marvels & Mohanlal

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Pulimurugan is an example of selective innovation: top-end technology makes the visuals world-class while the content stays firmly rooted in the tradition of sexism and dishum-dishum.

Director Vyshakh’s latest is definitely less clumsy than his earlier potboilers, like Pokkiri Raja, Mallu Singh, and Seniors, which had sketchy stories and sub-standard comedy. In contrast, Pulimurugan has few hiccups in its story. The pace is smooth, Vyshakh’s infamous love for multi-coloured sets is absent, and the focus is squarely on lead man Mohanlal’s screen-presence and acting prowess.

As it should be.

And when Mohanlal smiles gently at his opponents, and tells them in a soft, yet firm voice that he’s not afraid of them, the theatre erupts in cheers. No trash talk, no attempt to pep up crucial scenes with tasteless comedy.

But unfortunately, there are too many one-sided, alpha male moments, and too much else that is jarring.

*****

Script-writer Udaykrishna has written a story about an invincible hero, Murugan (Mohanlal). Murugan, who lives in a hamlet in a jungle, can single-handedly tackle a group of 40 or more armed fighters. According to legend, he killed a man-eating tiger when he was just 10. He’s such a legend, that until the last 30 minutes, he doesn’t even appear in real time. Only through the praise-filled words that equate him with Lord Ayyappa and Lord Murugan. This form of narration allows the film to repeatedly emphasise Murugan’s valour. But this much valorisation is redundant.

Murugan has an Achillies heel – his capacity for love and kindness. The villains, who would be toothless but for this, take advantage of it. Eventually, Murugan flees the jungle and lands in the domain of an industrialist, also a drug lord.

What follows is a George of the Jungle-like realisation that forest life is easier and less complicated than the world outside, which is unjust and full of betrayal.

*****

The highlight of the film is the high-octane action sequence towards the climax. Murugan is headed for one final fight with his arch rival, deep in the jungle. Arrows and blades fly into the screen. Murugan ducks and dodges, does superhuman acrobatics, and kills the attackers one by one.

Just like a character from a game of Temple Run.

Except, in the film, Murugan will never succumb to an arrow. The scene is exquisite because of the camerawork. The VFX and SFX are so well done, they bring the forest to life.

And despite blatantly chauvinistic and shallow lyrics, the Murugan anthem is electrifying.

Peter Hein’s stunt sequence here is marvelously choreographed, so much so that it makes the feat look like it could be performed in real life. Nothing in Malayalam cinema comes has come close to this kind of action.

Take that out though, and there’s little left to brag about.

*****

Murugan and his people live in a rainforest, but the human-nature relationship is portrayed as hostile. There are dialogues about peaceful coexistence, but the premise revolves around Murugan’s ability to dominate and defeat the wild.

And man destroying nature isn’t exactly heroic material these days.

Then there’s Manikkuttan (Vinu Mohan), Murugan’s younger brother. Also an implausibly gullible MBA student. When a classmate tells him that weed can cure cancer, he believes it. Despite having an MBA, he agrees to be a part of a dangerous drug deal in exchange for a job in a pharmaceutical company.

Although fewer than usual for a Vyshakh and Udaykrishna film, Pulimurugan has its share of sexist jokes. Suraj Venjarammoodu, a national award–winning actor who has been doing excellent character roles of late, plays a peeping tom. This is the film’s idea of harmless humour.

Kamalini Mukherjee, who plays Myna, Murugan’s wife, looks out-of-character throughout the film. Myna is a woman raised in the wilderness. Yet, in scenes when Myna runs from predators in the jungle, she looks like someone who has never been outdoors. The other main female character in the film (Namitha) is a midriff-flashing seductress, there to fuel some gratuitous libido jokes.

*****

With Pulimurugan, Vyshakh has brought in laudable technical feats. But the film itself lacks sufficient thought to make it anything but a drag, for anyone but a Mohanlal-fan.

*****

The Pulimurugan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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