It is lovely to see Arvind Swamy back in Malayalam after 26 years, but the making of the film doesn’t let you forget it is a movie, filled with artificial dialogues and jarring background music.

Kunchacko Boban in dark clothes and Arvind Swamy in blue shirt walk side by side against a sepia background of a ground
Flix Review Friday, September 09, 2022 - 19:41
Timepass

The first time Kichu meets him, David is behind a food counter of a movie theatre, selling popcorn. Simply by being Malayalis meeting in Mumbai, they become quick friends, Kichu calling the older man ‘Anna’ – a term for big brother. It is apparently a scheme, in which Kichu is expected to make David talk and reveal things from his past. David is a man who has lost his memory and Kichu has to help revive it. All of it sounds like an interesting premise to set a film in. Especially, when David is built up as a dangerous man now assuming the role of a quiet simpleton. With a two-line intro like that, you’d imagine the film could take off smoothly, without hiccup. Only, the idea just remained great on paper, in execution, Ottu, the film, leaves much to be desired. It came from a script written by S Sanjeev and is directed by Fellini TP.

It is pleasant to see Arvind Swamy back in Malayalam after a long gap – 26 years after Devaragam. Kunchacko Boban with a half ponytail and hip clothes, looks like a much younger cousin, when in fact the two actors are only six years apart. Arvind as the naïve popcorn man is in kurtas, sporting grey hair and beard and producing a warm laugh every time Kichu jokes. He is an easily likeable character. Unfortunately, the making of the film doesn’t let you forget it is a movie, filled with artificial dialogues and jarring background music. It is in short, a very wannabe gangster film, falling really short of the mark.

To give its due, the script doesn’t neglect the women characters the way gangster movies do. But they hardly stand out with the kind of half-baked writing used to develop them. Here is Amalda Liz in a posh room, wearing suits and interviewing Kichu for a job. Clearly, she is intended to play the cold woman boss, ruthless and uncaring. On the other side is Eesha Rebba playing Kalyani, Kichu’s lover, giving him strength. Both the characters appear so staged, it becomes fitting to an altogether pretentious drama the movie ends up as. Only Kunchacko Boban, with his own voice and all the subdued expressions, makes a sincere effort to bring some credibility to the script. Arvind, looking dashing and playing the part, is disadvantaged by having Vineeth dub for his character. Vineeth does a lovely job, it’s just that Arvind's voice is too familiar and someone else’s simply sounds out of place.

Fellini tries, clearly, for originality. There is a sequence of gunshots in the last half of the film, with one gang moving into the quarters of another, uncommon in Malayalam cinema. There is also the unforeseen twist, which would give a smart ending to the unusual plot. Where the film fails is in translating that vision, that idea into the visual form. Not every attempt falls flat. There is a scene where Kichu is out on the road, relieving himself, when it suddenly starts to rain and Arvind’s character, who has been at odds with him, appears with an umbrella behind him. There, the music is right, the emotions relatable. But those moments are far and few in between. And Ottu – meaning betrayal – gives you the feeling that more than a particular character in the film, it is you, the audience, who were taken for a ride. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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