Sunday, September 21, 2014

ഞാന്‍ (Njaan) (2014)

Director: Ranjith
Writer:    T. P. Rajeevan
Cast:       Dulqar Salman, Suresh Krishna, Anumol
Language: Malayalam

The film is an adaptation of the acclaimed novel 'K T N Kottur: Ezuthum Jeevithavum' by T. P. Rajeevan. This is the second instance of Ranjith adapting one of his novels, with the other being 'Paleri Manikyam'. The backdrop for the novel is a small village called Kottrur in pre-independence India. The character  Kottur who hails from a feudal family is supposed to be a humanist social worker. He thinks that being affiliated to a party, which is synonymous with rigidity for him, will limit the way he would like to work. The farming union he helped to build is too communist for Indian National Congress and he is too apolitical for soon to be communist leaders. He gets ostracized from his own union because of this which leads to him doing random stuff like getting addicted to liquor, going back to writing and finally marrying a blind girl who is the third major woman in his life. The film works as an introspection for the protagonist who realizes that he ended up as a big hypocrite when it comes to his own personal life and the original title of the novel Kottur: Ezuthum. Jeevithavum can also be interpreted as what he preached and what he actually did.

One can also consider the main protagonist to be a reflection of the director Ranjith himself. He is considered by many in the Malayalam film industry to be a great writer/director and some even treat him as if he is second coming of Padmarajan. In reality he is just an above average director who got this stature because of the very poor standards of his contemporaries. He is perfectly capable of doing some good work but I think he makes too many films without giving much thought about perfecting any of them (Am talking about the ones for which he got acclaims and not the ones he did purely for commercial reasons & I haven't seen Paleri Manikyam and Kaiyoppu, both of which are supposed to be good). The only films that can be considered very good in his filmography are Devasuram, Orkkapurathu and Nandanam and all of these comes with flaws. Njaan is also likewise.

The story of the character is told as a search about him by a blogger who is planning to create a play on it. I think it is a technique to get people into the cinemas without giving away the fact that it is purely a period film. The problem with it is that it will get the wrong kind of audience into the theatres which can be detrimental to the enjoyment for the original target audience. Nevertheless I enjoyed the shared viewing experience that you get with hearing the crude comments hurled by people who are not that amused by the film. I think they could have done away with the whole cringey modern day search for the character angle and driven the film entirely through narration. It would have shorten the film for good. It has plenty of flaws and I am not a huge fan of Dulqar Salman's acting and this one also didn't do anything to change my opinion. The second half of the film is much better and the very odd characters in it give a different surreal feel. Even though politics in it is not the forefront factor of the story, the questions that it raises are still very relevant in Kerala politics. The INC is portrayed as the party for the bourgeoisie and the soon to be communist leaders are shown as if they don't rate the intellectual capability of those for whom they fight and it is inevitable for them to end up as feudal top down leadership model.

The character Kottur is shown to have a good understanding about how these two parties are gonna eventually  end up as and he continuously takes an apolitical stand and proclaim himself as a humanist. The choices that he takes in his personal life ends up wrecking many people's lives. Even though I don't see anything wrong with what he does, he himself feel guilty about these things and view them as a by-product of his lust. Even though he is very progressive by the standard of the times he live in, he himself is disappointed by the way he treated the women in his life. This introspection leads him to fuck off into oblivion without a trace.

Overall it is a flawed film but a good watch nonetheless if you can manage to sit through  it.

Rating: 3/5