When M Padmakumar's Joseph released in 2018, it had come as a pleasant surprise. A sleeper hit, the film also gave a big boost to the career of actor Joju George. Pathaam Valavu is Padmakumar's attempt to return to the crime drama genre after the debacle of Mamangam (though perhaps Padmakumar cannot be entirely blamed there, as he stepped in late to the project after the original director Sajeev Pillai was dropped). The result, however, is rather underwhelming when compared to Joseph.
Pathaam Valavu begins with Sub Inspector Sethu (Indrajith) and his fellow officers on the lookout for a jail inmate named Solomon (Suraj Venjaramoodu), who has absconded at the end of his parole. Sethu and his men soon find and arrest Solomon. But on the way back down the hill, there is a roadblock at the tenth turn (hence the film’s name!), where they halt at a tea shop. As they wait, Sethu gets to know more about Solomon's past and what led to his jail sentence.
The issue with Pathaam Valavu is that Abhilash Pillai's script offers an assortment of scenes and situations that you are already familiar with. Just 15 minutes into the movie, you know where the film is headed and how it is going to end. Abhilash had done a better job with his previous outing, Night Drive, even if he loses track towards its final half hour. But here, he seems to have just rehashed the scripts of several other movies with similar themes.
You have the police officer who is stuck with a case and cannot be near his pregnant wife, who has been taken to the labour room for the delivery. You have the heroine (Aditi Ravi) who elopes with the hero and breaks ties with her parents. You have the heroine's sister who is getting married years later and the heroine who wants to attend the function. You have the priest (Sudheer Karamana) at the church who is there to guide the hero through hard times. The first half entirely disappoints you with one such cliché after another, without a single significant development in the screenplay.
The second half is slightly better, mainly because of the presence of the character Varadhan (Ajmal Ameer) in the flashback portions. This helps create some deviations in an otherwise entirely predictable plot. Ajmal, who is returning to Malayalam cinema after a while, puts in a decent performance too. The whodunnit revelation does not affect you at all because the film gives away an important hint during the first 20 minutes. This is shocking from the writer because giving away this detail so early kills any suspense left in the film.
Padmakumar continues the same subtle and emotional treatment he used in Joseph, but he clearly misses Shahi Kabir, the writer of the 2018 film. The director comes to his element in a couple of scenes in the second half. But by then, unfortunately, the insipid first half is likely to have already drained you out. The two songs by Ranjin Raj follow the same style of Joseph, while the background score is just average.
With Pathaam Valavu, Suraj is just continuing his stint of serious, intense roles. He has his moments in the film during a sequence in which his daughter goes missing. He is excellent in the police station scene, when the inspector asks him to return home and he asks how he can return without his kid. But it would be nice to see him make a return to comedy to make sure that this phase too doesn’t turn monotonous.
Both Aditi Ravi and Jayakrishnan shine in their roles, the former particularly in the emotional scenes. However, it is disappointing to see Indrajith once again wasted in another film in which he has absolutely nothing to perform (or rather he isn’t even trying to perform). All Indrajith’s character gets to do in the film is to listen to Solomon’s flashback story. What is happening to the actor who once used to outshine one and all in multi-starrers like Amar Akbar Anthony, Ee Adutha Kalathu and Left Right Left, one is left wondering.
In one word, Pathaam Valavu is underwhelming. It doesn’t help that this film also comes at a time in which there is perhaps an overdose of serious and intense films in Malayalam Cinema, with even the audience looking for a break from them.
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.