Sunday, April 26, 2015

ഞാന്‍ ഗന്ധര്‍വന്‍ (Njan Gandharvan) (1991)

Director: P. Padmarajan
Writer:    P. Padmarajan
Cast:       Suparna Anand, Nitish Bharadwaj
Language: Malayalam

The film is an esoteric fantasy about a girl and her passion for a celestial lover, who keeps appearing from a wooden statue that she found on a beach but is invisible to others. In Hindu mythology, gandharvas act as messengers between God and humans. They are usually depicted as singers in the court of Gods and also acts as guards for the Somas (intoxicating drink served for Gods). In Hindu law, a Gandharva marriage is one contracted by mutual consent and without formal rituals. In the film, the nameless Gandharvan (Nitish Bharadwaj) tells the girl that they are governed by very strict rules of heaven. They are usually banished to Earth when Gods catch them on their flings with Apsaras, and on Earth, they are ought to take virginity of the girls that they encounter after which they are supposed to forget about each other. Gandharvan in the film is a rebel who wants to break the rules and become a human after being smitten by the human girl. 

Both the main characters in the film are non-Malayalees and I am not sure about the exact logic of such a casting decision but Padmrajan might have thought that familiar faces would get in the way of convincingly portraying what are very odd characters in mainstream cinema. Mythical fantasy set in contemporary times is not a common genre in Malayalam cinema and only other film I could think of which came before this is 'Pappan Priyapetta Pappn', which was a comedy with Yaman. King of Death, in it. To be fair, casting Nitish Bharadwaj must have been a no-brainer since he was of course famous for portraying the role of Shri Krishna in the TV series epic 'Mahabharatha'. 

When it comes to enjoying the film, dubbing involved with the two main characters do get in the way sometimes in the film. The basic story is very flimsy but you do get the typical feel that Padmarajan manages to get in his films aided by a haunting theme music. I am not sure exactly what Padmarajan is going for since the Gandharva in it is very much real as he is seen interacting with other characters in the film. Maybe what he is trying to convey is that Heaven is very much a totalitarian regime governed by strict rules to control its inhabitants. Compared to that, the Earth is miles better, and the girl's family is portrayed as a very practical one which does not mind to go by her choice. I am not really an expert on Hindu mythology and don't know whether he is giving an alternate view on things and if so, it could very well be worthwhile, but I didn't find it all that interesting. But there is a novelty factor because of the fantasy elements which makes it a good enough watch overall.

Padmarajn met with an untimely death within a week after its release. Film was not very successful at the box office but was very well received when it was aired on TV. Out of all the Padmarajan films that I have watched this one is my least favorite. Wim Wender's 'Wings of Desire' also had a story of an angel coming down to the Earth but there is not much similarity between the two films. The script for Njan Gandharvan is not adapted from any other literary work of Padmarajan and was an original screenplay for the film. The three songs in it are very good and in context but you do get the feel that Padmarajan is doing it because he is hamstrung by limited actors.

Rating: 3/5