Sunday, September 11, 2016

ഒപ്പം (Oppam) (2016)

Director: Priyadarshan
Writers: Govind Vijayan, Priyadarshan
Cinematographer: N.K. Ekambaram
Cast: Mohanlal, Samudirakani, Nedumudi Venu, Anushree 
Language: Malayalam

Jayaraman (Mohanlal) is a blind man but possess a heightened sense of smell, touch and sound. He works as an elevator operator in a posh apartment in Kochi. One day he happens to encounter the murder of a person  with whom he was was very close with and subsequently he is charged with the crime. Jayaraman is the only one who can identify the killer and he also knows an information that the murderer badly wants. So the killer starts to follow him constantly to get that information. The film's title 'Oppam' comes from this and it translates as 'Together' in English.

Prior to the release of the film, Priyadarshan sounded very desperate for the film to be successful after his last couple of efforts bombed very badly at box office. There was an acknowledgment from him that he hadn't made a film in Malayalam with serious effort for a long time and this one is different as he is embracing the new generation of Malayalam cinema with him casting several actors among them. But the biggest validation came when the kickass trailer came out which was cut by Alphonse Putharen, who is certainly among the most promising directors from the industry.

The film begins with a very good short sequence where the killer's shadow is introduced set to a stunning poem and imagery. Then the character of Jayaraman is introduced in an utterly cringe worthy fashion, where his knowledge of classical music and martial arts (Kairali) is thrown in and you also get to see him singing during a boat trip with a couple of foreigners also appreciatively watching on. As you start worrying about the film, it does pick up from there and sustains quite well till about half way through the second half, even though there is a totally WTF sequence involving Mohanlal and Vimala Raman just before the central murder of the story. The last act of the film is extremely drawn out and will test your patience.

It is supposed to be a thriller and there is no big twist to it as we know the identity of killer from the beginning itself. The cat and mouse game between Jayaraman and the killer is the highlight of the film. But you do get perturbed by some of the lazy choices that Priyadarshan makes. It seems that almost all the characters in the film know each other and it is a small world. Anusree's Police character is seen to have connected the dots between several deaths but she doesn't seem to have a clue about the latest one even though she personally knows Jayaraman. Then there is an altogether improbable sequence of Aju Varghese's character setting up a meeting between the killer and Jayaraman. These kind of inconsistencies stick out like a sore thumb but you do have to credit Priyadarshan for not spoon-feeding much for the audience as there is no particular scene which looks too much like an exposition.

Cinematography and frames are excellent like you would expect from a Priyadarshan film and there is one shot of the killer on the rooftop in dark lit up by fireworks which was quite amazing. Chemban Vinodh and Mammukkoya are excellent in their roles as comic reliefs. Anusree is wasted in her role which is also quite poorly written and the sequences involving the little girl speaking grown up words are quite excruciating to watch in the second half.

Overall it is a watchable film with several highs and several lows. Most of the lows come in the characterisation of Jayaraman which I suspect is done to please his fans. Mohanlal's filmography can be divided into two eras with 'Narasimham', which came in 2000, being the dividing line. It was a film that set back Malayalam film industry for a decade and it was only with the advent of the new generation that it started recovering. Mohanlal had a phase of playing larger than life roles post Narasimham and that stopped only after several of those films started doing very badly at box office. But most of his roles since then have been of the whiter than white variety with him dishing out several moralising wise words like a family elder. Only roles that actually used Mohanlal's talents to a good degree since 2000 in my opinion have been Company, Bhramaram, Udayananu Tharam, Koothara and to a smaller extent, Drishyam. What made Drishyam's Georgekutty work is that he was not made out to be a perfect role model. He watches porn and is not politically very correct. Oppam's Jayaraman is not one to be added to that list as, even though Mohanlal does very well in portraying the blind character, the jack/master of all trades wise-ass characterisation that Priyadarshan goes for is not great.

PS: There is a totally unnecessary sequence involving Antony Perumbavoor which will make your groan and think of the Malayalam saying:"ആനപിണ്ഡത്തെയും പേടിക്കണോ"...

Rating: 2/5