Monday, February 15, 2016

റാണി പത്മിനി (Rani Padmini) (2015)

Director: Aashiq Abu
Writers:  Syam Psuhkaran, Ravisankar
Cast:       Manju Warrier, Rima Kallingal, Dileesh Pothan
Langauge: Malayalam

The story revolves around two women, Rani and Padmini, who are on a journey from Delhi to HImachal Pradesh with different purposes but happen to end up together by chance. 

It is basically an odd couple road film with Padmini being the older more traditional Kerala girl and Rani being a younger tomboy sort. One would think that it is a bit more serious toned story of self-actualization going by the poster and synopsis. It is actually served with dollops of comedy with very cartoonish side characters. There are things that are ridiculously bad about their backstories in terms of characterization. Padmini got a villain like mother-in-law who is forcing his son to go for a divorce because her daughter-in-law decided to go for a job. Why her husband agrees for a divorce, only God and Aashiq Abu knows. You could maybe justify it by saying that non-resident Keralites, who haven't integrated to their place of stay, tend to be more conservative than people living in Kerala as they seem to live in a time warp. In Rani's case, she is on the run from an underworld don about whom she informed the Police. Since, from the get go, her story is presented in a comedic track you can forgive the cartoonish nature of the characters. The backstories are revealed only gradually and Rani's story is told only after the interval. 

I hadn't seen any of the films featuring Manju Warrier since her comeback but going by her performance in adverts, it seems she has lost some of the naturalism. That is the case for this film as well but some of  the blame lies with the director. I think all the directors consider her to be very senior to them and are afraid to correct her performances these days. It is Rima who steals the show in this film in terms of overall performance and the chemistry between the two is quite good in a confrontational sense. Their relationship isn't too saccharine to make it intolerable and I got reminded of a similar genre film- 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'. Some have criticized it for its unsubtle feminism but I thought it was handled with much more intelligence than '22 Femle Kottayam', which was universally praised but I found to be very overrated. There is this guy who approaches Rani in a restaurant with a seemingly casting couch like offer but in the end it turns out that the guy was genuine. Aashiq Abu has also poked fun at Malayalee's misguided notion that all films should have a message and a film can only be good if it satisfies that criterion. Here you have Padmini, the traditional girl, insisting that she likes stories with a message. Both Rani and Padmini tell a fantasy story which are visualized in the film and I found both of those to be hilarious. 

Overall it is good watch despite its very obvious flaws. Songs and BGM are great with stunning cinematography, amply aided by the stunning locations. At 140 minutes, it is about 10-20 minutes longer than it should be. I think people will enjoy it for what it is if they watch it being aware that it is a light comedy film. It is a treatment that we haven't seen so far in Malayalam and the audience also needs to get out of their comfort zone to enjoy it. It was a worthy effort from Abu and his team.

Rating: 3/5