'Pinneyum': An interesting premise strangled to death ever so slowly

This Adoor Gopalakrishnan film goes everywhere and nowhere.
'Pinneyum': An interesting premise strangled to death ever so slowly
'Pinneyum': An interesting premise strangled to death ever so slowly
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“Pinneyum” is a grim, humourless film about human greed. But it lacks the honest depth of script that could have made it a gripping watch.

The film opens with the police investigating a man’s death in a hotel room – someone called Mr Sharma. Abruptly, the scene shifts and we see Purushottoman Nair (Dileep) facing an interview. Purushottoman has been without a job ever since he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, a good six or seven years ago. Though he’s never managed to find a job thus far, he’s married to Devi (Kavya Madhavan) and they have a daughter together.

Devi runs the household – comprising an old father, a sickly brother, a jobless husband and a young daughter – by working somewhere. We never see her at work though. She’s only ever visible in the ancient, gone-to-ruin ancestral home, looking sullen and irritated. Purushottoman’s inability to contribute to the household financially hangs like a thick fog over the couple, loosening Devi’s acerbic tongue.

Dileep excels in his portrayal of a man struggling to keep his self-respect intact. The pained vulnerability that flashes across his face at every barb thrown at him, his embarrassed demeanour at his father-in-law’s questions about why he’s wasting time reading Agatha Christie novels, his hesitation in expressing his sexual desires to his wife – Purushottoman is the male victim of patriarchy we rarely see on screen. He’s worthless because he has failed in the conventional role of the provider.

Kavya, too, is convincing as the resentful wife. However, despite the commendable performances of the cast, the story wanders and loses itself in the wilderness. Just as Purushottoman’s fortunes considerably improve, he decides to do something illegal for a windfall. He involves Devi’s relatives in the ploy, but things don’t go as expected. Not surprising, since their grand plan is quite hotchpotch.

The premise is absorbing and makes you sit up at the interval, expecting that an intriguing game of cat and mouse is to follow, but the story goes everywhere and nowhere. It’s as if the director sensed that the film was about to become exciting – mainstream exciting - and decided to apply the brakes to drag it back to the “art film” enclosure. Only, the weirdly literary way in which the characters speak, the lack of cogency in the script, and the somewhat careless treatment of time reduce it to an earnest college play.

“Pinneyum” could have been an engrossing watch. It could have been an intelligent study of human nature, the evil that resides in all of us. But the film fails to take us down that route and stagnates too early. 

Though the first half moves at a snail’s pace, it persuades you to be patient and give the characters a chance because of the actors who carry it on their capable shoulders. But there’s no saving the second half – if greed is Purushottoman’s cardinal sin, sloth is the director’s. And it’s the film that pays the wages of sin as it dies before your eyes ever so slowly. 

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