Moments after his son Subramaniam leaves home, Bhaskaran Poduval falls down. The neighbours come to the rescue as Poduval lifts himself up and walks away. Suraj Venjaramoodu has mastered that walk – the legs are a little bent across the knee, the movement is slow. You don’t doubt for a moment that this old man with his thinning white hair and beard and aging voice is anything but a grumpy 70-something holding on to his stubborn ways. Suraj is that convincing, that adorable and that annoying in Android Kunjappan Ver 5.25. This story about an old man and a robot is very, very refreshing indeed for the Malayalam film industry. It has its flaws, but the rawness of the script is endearing.
Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval makes an admirable debut as director, setting the movie in a village in Kannur, capturing along with Poduval and his son, the lives of the villagers and their small talk, all adding to the beauty of the script. The famous Kannur dialect effortlessly comes off the lips of Thiruvananthapuram based Suraj and Kochi based Soubin.
Most of the movie happens inside a lovely old Kerala home in Payannur. Everything about the house and the old man living in it is old fashioned. He doesn’t use machines – not the grinder, not the mixie, not even the television. And yet it is the mother of all machines – a robot – that his son brings home when he visits from Russia. Soubin Shahir plays a responsible son very maturely. It is slightly different from his usual picks – there is less of comedy and more of confusion that comes to a son who has a difficult dad.
Bhaskaran doesn’t want his son to go away for work. Not even to Kochi. “So why did you make me an engineer then, dad?” complains a 34-year-old Subramaniam and you are slightly judgmental. Really, he is 34 and acting like a just-out-of-school boy? But you get the picture soon. Poduval, a single dad, had raised the son without letting him miss his mom. If the son goes away, the dad would be all alone in the huge house. It’s not your typical movie-dad who would be understanding after a certain point. Poduval remains the same stubborn fellow, not willing to compromise his ways or change his opinions till the robot becomes a good part of his life.
Subramaniam at first tries to hire a home nurse to help his dad but no one stays too long. Poduval just doesn’t get along with anyone. The comedy that easily flows through the lines spoken make you want to pay attention to every word, lest a joke is missed. It could come from the new home nurse or the villager at a tea shop or two old women sitting in their home and speaking about the new ‘yanthra manushan’ (machine man). The many characters are beautifully placed.
The scene shifts to Russia in between where some romance enters Subramaniam's life and the robot enters Poduval's life in Kerala. The script then adorably develops the relationship between the two of them, the machine responding quite literally to all of Poduval’s questions. At times however, the dialogues, in its attempt to be funny, become tasteless. On one occasion the robot says people in Japan would express their feelings to each other and Poduval responds that ‘Here, if you like a woman, you rape them’. This could be a critical line but it comes off badly.
Music (Bijibal) doesn’t interfere with the story and you watch keenly the changes that come to the old man, who learns to laugh more often and yell less often, fall in love all over again. The script however falters towards the last many minutes, when it seems to lose direction. Perhaps it wants to say machines can’t replace humans, or perhaps it wants to say humans should not forget their aged parents. The message is lost and the script seems hurried to reach an end.
As far as debuts go, however, this one scores, and Ratheesh’s name shall be remembered.
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.