Tuesday, August 19, 2014

അര്‍ത്ഥം (Artham) (1989)

Director: Sathyan Anthikad
Writers:  Venu Nagavally, Subha (Story)
Cast:       Mammootty, Sreeinvasan, Murali, Saranya Ponvannan, Jayaram

The story begins with Narendran (Mammotty) writing a suicide letter in which he states that he is an extremely happy person and his decision to commit suicide is just like stopping singing when the voice is still good. As he lies waiting in a railway track he finds out that another person Janardhanan (Jayaram) is also doing the same because he committed a murder. Narendran decides to take responsibility for the murder since Janardhanan's whole family is dependent on him and he gets a life sentence for his troubles. Janardhanan, still feeling guilty, brings a megalomaniac lawyer (Sreenivasan) into picture to appeal for a reduced sentence which Narendran flatly refuses. Meanwhile Janardhanan gets murdered which gets covered up as suicide. While in jail Narendran writes a Novel under the pen-name of 'Ben Narendran' which gets him the state literature award. The advocate and a journalist arranges for his parole during which he starts investigating into Janardhanan's murder.

I kind of wrote the entire plot since the synopsis was not available in IMDB. As I read back the plot written above, it sounds very cheesy but it is anything but because of the treatment. It is based on Tamil detective novel 'Ethir Katru' by Subha which was also made into a film with the same name in Tamil but it came out after Artham. Mammootty is perfect for the role of Ben Narendran and there is no better actor in Malayalam to portray characters for which we are meant to feel a lot of respect. I always thought Sreenivasan had written the script for this film but it turns out that it was by Venu Nagavally who is not exactly known for achieving perfection in his films (Lal Salaam being the exception). I have always liked Sathyan Anthikad's agianst the type crime thrillers that he did before 2000 like Kalikallam, Artham and Pingami. He is largely known for his social commentary comedies and I don't know whether Artham did well in box office and I wouldn't be surprised if it indeed was a flop.Still there is comedy throughout the film with plenty of memorable small roles from the likes of Oduvil Unnikrishnan, Mamukkoya and Philomena. But it is not comedy for comedy's sake which is what differentiates the great Malayalam films from the yesteryears from the shit that masquerades as comedy from recent times.

It is also interesting that Padmarajan's 'Season' also came out in the same year. I really thought that Season had influenced Artham but it couldn't have. Both the films have really cool characters as protagonists with the narration in Season being its standout feature. I don't remember whether narration had a large part to play in Kalikkalam to still cling on to my Season influence on Sathyan Anthikad theory. Anyway Artham is a must watch film and I think I have seen it about 3-4 times so far.

Rating: 4.5/5