'Aadhi' review: Pranav Mohanlal makes a fine debut, impresses in action sequences

Jeethu Joseph's action thriller has plenty to like although the writing could have been better.
'Aadhi' review: Pranav Mohanlal makes a fine debut, impresses in action sequences
'Aadhi' review: Pranav Mohanlal makes a fine debut, impresses in action sequences
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Pranav’s father, Mohanlal is the biggest action superstar Malayalam cinema has produced. There have been actors like Babu Antony who've performed the stunts better. But no one has been as successful as Mohanlal in this genre for this long. Whether it is Rajavinte Makan in the '80s, Yodha or Sphadikam in the '90s or even Pulimurugan last year, Mohanlal’s dedication and energy when it comes to performing stunts on screen has rarely found better counterparts.

What strikes you first in Pranav Mohanlal’s debut as a leading actor is how his speed and agility in stunts reminds you of his father. It is a smart move from Mohanlal and Jeethu Joseph to launch Pranav in a movie that capitalises on the star son’s strengths. We have seen glimpses of these skills when he acted as a child artist in Onnaman in 2001. He has only scaled up further after the extensive training he underwent in Parkour stunts in Australia.

It also helps that Jeethu Joseph has written a story which has its hero on the run for a major part of the movie’s run-time. Aadhi tells the story of Aadhithya Mohan, a young man (Pranav Mohanlal) whose dream is to make a mark as a big music director, for which his dad (Siddique) has allowed him only two years to try and succeed. Though he is actually innocent, he gets tangled up in the death of the son of a business tycoon (Jagapathi Babu) in a pub in Bengaluru. The rest of the film is about Aadhi fighting back. 

Aadhi’s major highlight is its chase scenes. Pranav jumps from building to building and climbs from the ground to roofs with astonishing speed that it will take another viewing to completely appreciate how well he has done it. He even does a decent job bashing up the bad guys when he is not flying in the air. Though the stunts are what he does best, Pranav’s debut is not about that alone.

He starts off a little shakily and you notice that he is not at ease delivering dialogues. The camera tries to be distant from him in the first half, indicating perhaps that the actor wasn’t comfortable initially.  But Pranav surprisingly gets a lot better in the second half, with his screen presence and dialogue presentation getting a good boost. The actor also emotes well when he breaks down in a phone conversation with his father after a tragic event.

Jeethu Joseph has always been a better screenplay writer than a director. It is his writing that can take you by complete surprise at every turn and this is what made Memories and Drishyam two of the finest thrillers of this decade. We miss that extremely skilled writer in the first half of Aadhi as Jeethu takes his sweet time to establish characters and their histories.

Even after Aadhi lands himself in a difficult situation, it might trouble you that he takes a long while before finding a way out of it. The movie is stuck at the same plot point some 30 minutes around the interval. Like his previous outing Oozham, Jeethu Joseph once again has caricature villains who are underdeveloped and don’t really think ahead of the hero.

The director brings his A-game in the movie’s last hour. The entire sequence where Aadhi devices a solid plan to get into the office building to meet Jagapathi Babu gives you ample thrills and reminds you what Jeethu Joseph is capable of when he is in his elements. There are enough clever tricks that the leading hero pulls out of his hat in this part of the story.

Siddique is as dependable as ever and Lena has some light moments in the first half. But the movie might have benefited with lesser space for Aadhi’s parents after a while. The presence of Meghanadan and Anushree brings some relief, the latter especially evoking some good laughs. The bond that slowly grows between Anushree’s character( Jaya) and Aadhi is well established.

Siju Wilson is a weak link in the movie. Another actor who looks the part of a villainous young man would have made a big difference. Jagapathi Babu would do well to stop choosing such bad guy roles in Malayalam movies that don't offer anything exciting to him as an actor. Satheesh Kurup’s camera does a fantastic job in capturing Pranav’s speed in chase scenes aptly. The background by Anil Johnson, who is a regular in Jeethu Joseph movies, goes by his usual job of adding thrills to the tense scenes. His songs though once again aren’t impressive.

Aadhi is Jeethu Joseph’s most satisfying movie since Drishyam and a decent debut vehicle for Pranav Mohanlal. Pranav has a long way to go before you can compare him with his father or even his contemporaries. But Aadhi’s second hour is the sign that he could get better as he spends more time in front of camera. For now, he has exploited the fact that not many young heroes in Malayalam have taken the risk to do stunts like he has in his debut movie. That just about gives Aadhi the impetus it needs.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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