Like an elephant at Kerala’s famed Thrissur Pooram, Mohanlal is at the centre of director Lal Jose’s film Velipaadinte Pusthakam. And like that majestic elephant, he has very little to do.
Every character treats him like a demigod.
When Mohanlal enters the screen, cycling into a college campus, some students are waiting to harass him. Then he does a little stunt on his bicycle. In slow-motion. The wind blows. Leaves fall on him. And the students watching him are awestruck.
A considerable amount of time is spent here, in this poorly executed scene. Even though Lal Jose is a veteran director with several commercial hits to his credit.
It is not just the technical part that is all wrong. The plot is unoriginal, and lazily executed. There are actors aplenty, but the characterisation is shallow. Crowding every frame, they leave without making an impression.
Except for the sounds of silly and contrived dialogues.
The story unfolds in the backdrop of a college campus in a coastal village where kids from the fishermen community study. Salim Kumar plays a vice-principal who loses his position when the authorities find out about his sexual perversion. In his place comes Michael Idikkula (Mohanlal), a professor of Malayalam and a devoted Christian priest.
This role is a crossover of Vishal Krishnamoorthy from Devadoothan and Vinayachandran from Life Is Beautiful.
It’s a role that Mohanlal can sleepwalk through.
The students love him, the lady staff members admire him, and some of the male teachers are jealous of his charisma.
Under Idikkula’s leadership, the students and teachers decide to make a feature film to raise money for a new college hostel building. A film based on the life and death of a fisherman named Viswanathan (Anoop Menon), who fought a powerful landlord for the land on which the college stands.
No prizes for guessing that Idikkula ends up playing the film’s hero, the dhoti-clad macho man Bullet Viswam.
Velipaadinte Pusthakam‘s plot concept has been tried out by a number of crime-thrillers across the world. While shooting their film, Idikkula and his crew discover something – a murder and hushed up secrets about Viswan.
Just like Mohanlal’s Vishal Krishnamoorthy did in Devadoothan, an eerie romantic film. Just like Jayaram and Prem Kumar did in Puthukkottayile Puthumanavaalan, an unassuming comedy-drama.
The difference is, there’s little suspense in Velipaadinte Pusthakam. After a point, one wants to get up and leave. It’s that hard to pay attention in the second half.
The college campus in Velipaadinte Pusthakam is more outdated than the one in Lal Jose’s Classmates (which was set in the ’90s). There is a song sequence which has students dancing in unison to a rhythmic, as smiling teachers watch. When a clash breaks out, boys run for hockey sticks. You know, the traditional weapon of college campuses in Malayalam cinema.
How are these clichés not extinct?
Every indoor frame is infused with an unreasonably bright light that neither adds to the film’s aesthetics nor makes any sense. It looks visually disoriented. Especially when, as in several scenes, there is a mismatch between action and reaction shots.
This is easily one of Lal Jose’s worst shot and edited films.
The cast has talented young actors like Arun Kurien, Sharath, and Krishna Padmakumar, acting in only their second film. They deliver wide-eyed sincere performances. But it’s wasted in a film that strikes no honest chord, and lacks both soul and originality. In fact, it looks most like one of those hastily-made festival films that tries to cash in on the holiday crowd.
For Lal Jose, this could be the right time to introspect. Because Velipaadinte Pusthakam is a more amateurish work than his debut film, Maravathoor Kanavu, ever was.
The Velipaadinte Pusthakam 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.