Long before the pandemic, One was announced with a five-word introduction – Mammootty plays Kerala Chief Minister. When it finally reached theatres, it was election time in Kerala. The film received renewed attention. The interest grew when the trailer came, bearing a few marked semblances to the real life CM, Pinarayi Vijayan. But it turns out, there is very little to connect Mammootty’s Kadakkal Chandran to Pinarayi Vijayan in the film. Writers Bobby and Sanjay together with director Santhosh Viswanathan have managed to tell a refreshing tale around a topic written about many times before – Kerala politics.
One does not shy away from putting together all the right elements of a superstar film. A situation is set for Mammootty to make a grand entry. Even before the physical entry, the film shows a huge flex of Kadakkal Chandran erected in front of the Thiruvananthapuram railway station. That's a cue for fans in theatres to promptly throw confetti in the air as the movie title scrolls past the screen.
The plight of a common man’s family – one particular family – becomes the premise for Kadakkal Chandran’s introduction. Prompted by a friend (Ishaani Krishna), a young man called Sanal (Mathew Thomas), writes an anonymous Facebook post against the CM. As the police zero in on him, there is tension in the air. The CM wants to meet Sanal in person. Mathew plays the nervous college student with ease, hot tea spilling onto his shirt as he waits for the CM. Following the class rule of mass entry, pepped up music (Gopi Sundar) is in the air as the camera first focuses on the CM’s polished black shoes, his footsteps, his khaddar, before feature by feature his face is revealed. Mammootty's shots, throughout the film, are carefully framed for effect - when he places a chair in the middle of a police station and sits with one leg over another, when he walks towards a window and looks away thoughtfully (cinematography by Vaidy Somasundaram).
Watch: Trailer of One
As a member of the audience you don’t of course share Sanal’s fears. If the CM is going to be your hero, he will not harm poor timid Sanal. True to form, Kadakkal Chandran calls a press conference and apologises to Sanal and his family.
“He has scored again,” mutter members of the Opposition, who had planned grand protests including a harthal for the issue. Murali Gopy, with his hair combed back, a pair of specs and a smug expression on his face, plays the unlikeable Opposition Leader. In this way, there are stereotypes all over the place. The unrelenting party president who’d do anything for the party – Joju George, the corrupt politician who’d jump ships for power – Alencier, the loyal cook – Mammukoya.
The casting appears all wrong when young Nimisha Sajayan appears as the younger sister of the CM and Joju George as his batchmate comrade. In between slipping in a message and depicting the personal life of a politician, the film also loses ground. The family scenes appear forced and only to reinforce the sacrifices made by a politician for the sake of his homeland. Mammootty, expectedly, is consistent in delivering the right emotions at all times – as the CM in keeping the spirits high and as the human in empathising. A scene where Sanal meets the CM to thank him is especially touching.
Another little mystery in the film is to do with a little problem the CM has, revealed just before the interval. For some reason, this remains unexplained and it’s disappointing, for, it seemed to open up a new thread for the story.
One is entertaining as far as political films go, with a little bit of preaching, some amount of inspiring dialogue, and without unnecessary sidetracks. It may have questionable stands as the one on harthal, but without mentioning parties or names, it stays clear of controversies, and has at its heart, a message worth listening to.
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.