Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Adharvam (1989)

Director: Dennis Joseph
Writer:    Shibu Chakravarthy
Cast:       Mammootty, Ganesh Kumar, Silk Smitha, Jose Prakash
Language: Malayalam

Film portrays the life of Anantha Padmanabhan, who was born to an aristocratic father and a lower caste mother. He grows up with his lower caste mother but his father, disturbed by a dire prediction, decides to take him under his wings and teaches him Vedas which is something exclusive to the Brahmin community. He becomes a learned man but faces hostility from the 'Savarnnas' which ultimately leads to the death of his mother and the prediction coming true with him deciding to study the fourth vedam, Adharva Vedam. Out of the four vedas- Rig, Yajurva, Sama and Adharva, the last one is the most ambiguous containing a collection of spells, incantations and speculative hymns. Unlike other vedas, it is more concerned with the material world and also sanctions the use of force. In the film it is associated with black magic.

The film is very atmospheric dealing with a rare subject and settings. It deals with the relevant subject of caste equations and conventions. Ananthan is facing an identity crisis living in a society where your caste dictates what you do in life. By the society he is considered a Pulluvan, of singing caste, but his upbringing  is that of a learned Brahmin. As for the film if you take out the outer shell of its setting, it is a story that has been told many times but what makes it extremely watchable is the  uniqueness of it being set in contemporary Kerala but its characters being a throwback to much older times. All that, said the last third of the film is really not good with it  making a horror turn.

Dennis Joseph is a script writer who is most famous for his works with the directors Joshi and T.S. Suresh Babu. The films he directed are very different to those films and are in some sense much better. Am a big fan of his debut film 'Manu Uncle' which I consider to be the best children's film that I have seen from Indian cinema. The songs are also outstanding in his films.

Rating: 3.5/5