Director Ranjith, had in an interview, said that you’d see the ‘old Mohanlal’ in Drama. He must mean the actor before the times of superhero movies, some of which he had written.
It is true Drama doesn’t have any of the superhero elements Mohanlal has come to be known for in the last couple of decades. No ‘po mone’s or ‘savari girigiri’s. No long stretches of monologues that end with slow-motion walk-aways. He plays instead an NRI man in trouble with his wife, thrown out of the house because of something he did. His job at a funeral company in London brings him in touch with a big Malayali family where a death has occurred.
While you can, if you try, pick out a few, really few, moments of enjoyable scripting, these come and go in the blink of an eye and what is left, is dry, often meaningless drama. In attempting to make Mohanlal “ordinary”, Ranjith has perhaps tried too hard and makes his character Rajagopal appear desperate to get some laughs. So you see a Mohanlal jump head first into a car to funny background music (courtesy Biibal), his legs thrown up in the air. You see a Mohanlal stammer in front of an old woman, a Mohanlal making empty threats to his wife (Asha Sharath) and mutter to himself.
Not only are they unfunny, but they also look like staged props to somehow bring back an old era. In that way, the movie’s title fits. Staged props of a drama. They come not just from the lead actor either. There is a plethora – no exaggeration here – of actors in the film, a few of them looking and sounding quite out of place.
The death is that of a mother of five, all of whom are scattered in different places across the world – the US, Sydney, London, Dubai. The mother (Arundathi Nag) who had just gone away to London to live with her daughter Kunjumol (Kaniha), speaks of her wish to be buried back home in Kattappana, Kerala, next to her husband, if she should die in London. It’s like she predicts her death just before it happens, calling her youngest son Joemon (Niranjan) too to tell her last wish. The predictable first few scenes happen quickly – where all the five of her children are introduced. The elder three include two sons (Suresh Krishna and Tini Tom) and a daughter (Subi).
The family approaches the funeral company that Rajagopal works at, run by Dixon Lopez (Dileesh Pothen). You heave a sigh when you see them, for you finally see some good performances from the likes of director-actor Dileesh Pothen and actor Baiju. Baiju does a smooth job in his short bit as Podiyan, an irresponsible employee at the company. He seems to be a really underutilised actor in the industry.
Another good performance comes from Arundathi Nag, who in her short time on screen, plays the old-fashioned Kottayam grandmother effortlessly.
Shyamaprasad, another director who turns an occasional actor, is pretty disappointing as the ‘Nair’ husband of Christian Kunjumol. He says a few English lines, perhaps to suit a London background, and then plays a meek doctor who lets himself be talked into casteist ideas. There is a detailed dialogue in a London metro between Shyamaprasad and Mohanlal, when the latter keeps harping on “our Nair traditions”. The script later justifies it with a confession from Rajagopal that it was a third-rate method to get things done, and also goes on to use a similar ‘Catholic tradition’ dialogue. But it still sounds unbearable especially around the fifth or sixth time Mohanlal says "us Hindus and us Nairs". Funnily enough, Mohanlal’s habit of playing upper caste Hindu roles was made fun of in a scene in Maheshinte Prathikaran, directed by Dileesh Pothen, his co-actor in Drama.
But that’s how the second half lags on, with unnecessarily stretched scenes that include a big part played by Renji Panicker, who appears as a vile politician back home in Kerala.
Asha Sharath too appears only towards the middle of the movie, without a lot of significance. The only silver lining is the absence of a younger woman that you fear would spring up any time to have a one-sided blind admiration for the leading man, as it often happens in superstar movies. Also surprisingly, there are no songs in the film except when it ends and you have a behind-the-scene track sung by Mohanlal, being played.
The core plot is simple, nice too. But it is developed too lazily and the second half, especially, seems too stretched. It is supposed to make you sentimental, about death, about mothers and fathers. But what you feel throughout the movie is, in one word, nothing.
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.