Sharrath Sandith's debut film Parole is supposedly based on a true life story. Whose story? We don't know. Whoever the man is, he's played by Mammootty on screen. A well-behaved convict Alex who is trusted by the cops at the jail. But this proves to be the film's undoing - the director struggles to strike a balance between making a realistic film and an unabashed star vehicle.
There are at least three different plots in Parole. The first is about life in captivity. Alex, like a sutradhar, recounts the tale of the jail inmates to a newly-appointed officer in an obvious narrative device. But what has the fresh-faced Alex done to land himself in jail? The director takes a circuitous route to get to that point, making Mammootty indulge in a gravity-defying stunt sequence...just so someone can finally ask, "Who is Alex really?" Flashback alert.
The second plot revolves around a revolutionary communist and his family while the third is about the conflict between a father and son. However, none of these feels satisfying because of the filmmaker's penchant for highlighting Alex's heroism and goodness of heart even as he makes one stupid decision after another.
For instance, "saving" his sister's marriage to an irresponsible man given to all forms of vice. The melodrama would have been forgivable in a film made in the '80s or even '90s, but in the year 2018, it's just tiring. Besides, even melodrama deserves to be done well. The inconsistent writing means that there are gaps here too - when a person much younger than Alex, who is very dear to him, dies, Alex doesn't even ask how it happened. The director is so fixated with Alex's character that one of the other protagonists, although important, is wiped out of the story just like that. Did the person get a heart attack? Was the person struck down by lightning? Did they get run over by a bus? Nobody is interested.
All three plot-lines accommodate a very generous attitude towards male transgressions - whether that's an extramarital affair, domestic violence, or indulging in criminal activities. The film is so relentlessly told from this "boys will be boys" perspective that the two women characters played by Miya George and Iniya barely make any impact. They are merely plot points and not characters.
And considering that the film seems to be stuck in a time-warp, it's not surprising that the misconception that epileptic patients can be treated by holding an iron object figures prominently in the narrative.
Mammootty, who has done several complex characters in his career, can sleepwalk through a role like this. It's a pity that more and more directors seem interested in giving him mega moments (documented in repetitive slow-mo shots) but not sound scripts which can truly exploit his potential. After Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, one would have expected Suraj Venjaramoodu to grow out of the valippan roles he's been stuck doing. Parole, unfortunately, pushes him back into the rut.
The film also suffers from poor editing. When Alex is attacked at the cemetery, for instance, the scene ends up looking ludicrous and thrust into the narrative for no good reason. The film would have benefited if the songs had been trimmed instead of sequences that would have made the screenplay smoother. Do we really need a jolly prison song?
With its meandering plot and aged storytelling, Mammootty's star presence is the only factor which may bail Parole out.
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.