Debut director Rafeek Ibrahim's Padayottam is an absurd drama about gangsters who are not particularly bright. Much of the film depends on situational comedy for laughs and since it has a cast of talented actors, the proceedings are never dull. The plot takes several twists, introducing us to one gangster after the other. However, by humanising each of them in a way that's not merely gimmicky, Padayottam manages to stay entertaining till the end.
Biju Menon plays Raghu, a devout gangster, who is terrified of his mom (the ever-delightful Sethu Lakshmi). In your regular film, gangsters merely chop people up. At the most, they may swig a drink and dance along in an "item" number. But when the hero is a gangster himself, we see them as an ordinary person with ordinary problems - travel sickness and loose motion, for instance.
Biju Menon is effortless as Raghu, flinching as he gets a dressing down from his Ma, even as his name chills the blood of others in the business.
Along with his lackeys, Senan (Dileesh Pothan), Sree (Saiju Kurup), and Renju (Sudhi Koppa), he is out to avenge a great wrong done to their acquaintance Pingu (Basil Joseph). Yes, a thug named Pingu. This should you give some idea of just how grave the "injustice" they are out to avenge is.
Our team travels from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod for this mission and along the way, they learn that the journey is just as important as the destination (and we are not speaking in philosophical terms here). There are quite a few good-natured jibes at the Kasargod dialect, with the Thiruvananthapuram men looking completely zapped by whatever the people in the district say.
Lijo Jose Pellissery is a scream as Britto, a suicidal gangster, who cannot stop discussing the virtues of kolli and potti curry. Hareesh Perumanna, too, is dependably funny. Anu Sithara makes a cameo as a professor, who is interested in Raghu. She barely has anything to do in the film but the few scenes that she is in, tell us more about what kind of guy Raghu is.
The plot turns this way and that, with the final twist exposing just how ridiculous the whole misadventure has been. While some moments are truly 'laugh out loud', Padayottam is not in the same league as comedy classics like Ramji Rao Speaking.
This is because we don't become emotionally invested in the characters - the script only wants us to keep laughing, not get to know the people whose story is unfolding on screen.
The camera angles and background score accentuate the humour (do we really need fart noises for laughs though?) but I wish there was some tragic relief somewhere. Although all the characters are likeable, we never really root for them, not even Raghu. The script simply does not call for such involvement from the part of the audience.
The ending is overstretched. However, Rafeek never loses track of the different strands in the plot, making Padayottam a fun weekend watch. Like its characters, this is a harmless, wacky film that doesn't aspire for greatness and is quite content with what it is.
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.