While the script about rivalry between schoolboys is novel, the film has too many characters and is too lengthy.

Pathinettampadi review A novel script on school rivalry stretched out too much
Flix Mollywood Friday, July 05, 2019 - 15:45
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It doesn't strike you when you're watching the film, but Shanker Ramakrishnan has looked inside two schools of the capital city and found stories of boyhood few movies have told before. Young romance, a favourite theme for school stories, has been pushed to the side. And in the centre, he has placed rivalry – of boys between an international school and a government school. Adult characters, including those played by Mammootty, Prithviraj and others, stand aside to give the boys all the space and only enter when they have to. 

Shanker’s script (he has scripted and directed) has novelty, but when it is stretched out over an unjustified length of 160 minutes on screen, you also notice the flaws. 

Prithviraj, as Ashwin, enters the frame in white clothes, with the look of a man at peace. He is running a school, which by the description of a few visitors, is doing something magical to the kids. We don’t get to see what the magic is, for at that point someone shows Ashwin an old school photograph and he begins to tell the story of a bunch of boys from the mid 1990s. Just as he does, we also see a shot of Arya – who plays Ayyappan – as an army major, falling down during an attack.

Ayyappan (younger version played by Akshay Radhkrishnan) was the leader of the government model school gang and Ashwin (younger version by Ashwin Gopinath), of the international school, "where the rich kids went". We trace the rivalry from a cycle hockey game. Here’s where one of the romances begins but gets pushed aside since the theme is school rivalry between the boys. From the hockey ground to public transport, there is fighting everywhere, it almost looks like college fights between political rivals. 

In fact, there is the presence of a political party in the campus – and Suraj Venjaramoodu (another cameo) appears as a Communist minister. What you don’t see here is the slightest bit of schoolboy innocence or confusion that teenagers typically have. The international school gang is also messed up by the use of substance – perhaps referencing the real life incidents of substance abuse in a high end school in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Model School boys are carefully cast and written – each of them comes with their distinct traits – one is a policeman’s boy and child of separated parents, another is a mechanic’s boy, the third makes money through folk dance and drama. Their troubled backgrounds are appreciably not used for sentiment, but only to build their characters. However, the characters of the international school look and sound a tad fake. Quite a few lines – even those by Prithvi in the beginning – sound like they're being read out of a textbook.

It’s these flaws that take away from the novelty of the script that Shanker has painstakingly penned. There are a whole lot of characters to attend to, many little stories to deal with. There is Joy sir (played by Chandunath) who comes to help the boys get over their substance abuse, there is Annie Teacher (Ahaana Krishna) aiding Joy sir, and there is of course the powerful character of John Abraham Palakkal (Mammootty). Unfortunately none of these characters go as deep as they are meant to. Annie Teacher, for instance, does not have a lot to do except appear stylish as the new young teacher and look admiringly at Joy sir. Ahaana’s casting also seems out of place, when she could have more easily fit among the students than play their older, mature teacher.

Mammootty, after his much appreciated performance as a regular cop in Unda, falls back on the superstar formula, of looking great and being unbeatable, becoming the saviour at the time of need. Nothing wrong in it, except it sticks out. The rest of the script stays close to the ground and this infusion of fantasy looks odd.   

The songs too stick out, coming out of the blue  – especially the one featuring Saniya Iyyappan. Sudeep Elamon’s camera captures the rain fights and the prestigious model school nostalgically, but then all the light’s gone when Arya fights and you have no idea who’s fallen.

If the length, some of the lines and characters are cut down or reshaped, Pathinettampadi could make for a good two hours of cinema. 

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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