Director Ranjith Shankar’s filmography oscillates between two poles. His Su Su Sudhi Vatmeekam (2015) was a moving drama, while Pretham (2016) was an unintelligent horror-comedy. Ramante Eden Thottam, which hit the screens earlier this year, was a well-made romantic drama that was beautifully mature. Unfortunately, Punyalan Private Limited follows the hit-and-miss pattern. A sequel to Ranjith’s 2013 comedy Punyalan Agarbathies, this film is a lazily written social commentary that works neither as a sequel nor as a stand alone film. It lacks the infectious charm and genuine humour that Punyalan Agarbathies possessed, and worse, the best loved characters from the first part are soulless caricatures here.
For one, the lead character, Joy Thakkolkaran (Jayasurya) is no longer the adorably optimistic entrepreneur. He has strangely transformed into an irritatingly self-righteous man who dishes out motivational lines like a self-help book. His wife, Anu (played by a charismatic Nyla Usha), who was one of the brightest elements of Punyalan Agarbathies, is dead and gone in the sequel. The woman’s absence shouldn’t come as a surprise because Indian sequels, traditionally, have abstained from retaining the female lead from the first part. The new additions to the cast, Dharmajan as a lawyer, and Arya as a television reporter, aren’t effective.
The film opens years after the inception of Punyalan Agarbathies. Joy’s much successful business venture is being wound up, thanks to dire financial crisis. Joy is devastated, but the true-blooded optimist that he is, comes up with another stellar innovative business idea within a few days. Like the agarbathies business, the new one too involves elephants – to manufacture water out of elephant urine, and sell it in pretty paper bottles. Things are smooth until the day Joy and his unreliable lawyer friend Thaneesh (Dharmajan) get into a tussle with an officer at the office of KSRTC for the company’s failure to deliver Punyalan Water Bottle cartons on time. KSRTC files a pseudo criminal case against Joy who embarks on a one-man-army fight against the corrupt bureaucratic forces.
Ranjith Shankar takes on a number of civil issues through the film. But there is no intrigue or any kind of cinematic aesthetic in the narrative. Most of the time, the film resembles a radio talk or a Facebook live video where a character renders a lengthy monologue on the dismal state of the civil society. More than once, Joy’s anger, Greenu’s (Aanu Varghese) adulation and Abhayan’s (Sreejith Ravi) naivete seem exaggerated.
Vijayaraghavan plays a shrewd Twitter-savvy chief minister who invites Joy to spend a day with him. His combination scenes with Joy could have been stellar, with brilliant exchange of words, but all you get is a series of dull conversations. The dialogues are patchily written, and often, the actors flounder while mouthing them. For instance, when you see the chief minister first, he is scrolling down the Twitter feed and telling himself, “Joy Thakkolkaran is trending on Twitter.” Clearly, it isn’t the character speaking, but Ranjith Shankar from behind the curtain. If everything looked flawlessly organic in Punyalan Agarbathies, things are flat and cosmetic in the sequel.
Nevertheless, Punyalan Private Limited deserves a pat on the back for bringing back Ajayan (Guinness Pakru) on screen, in a role that doesn’t put a finger on his physical appearance. He plays a noble bank manager, and the actor has played his part to perfection.
Jayasurya’s kurtas (probably a work of his costume designer spouse, Saritha) are more impressive than his performance in the movie. He is mildly over the top most of the time, and unlike the first part, his accent or antics on screen don’t evoke laughter or a smile. The rest of the cast members are easily forgettable.
Making a sequel to a popular movie like Punyalan Agarbathies was a misstep by Ranjith Shankar, who is known as one of the most intelligent producers in Malayalam cinema. Even the town of Thrissur, where both films unfold, looks lacklustre in the sequel. If life in the city seemed like a pleasant adventure in Punyalan Agarbathies, it is a mundane exercise in Punyalan Private Limited.
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