Sunday, February 12, 2017

ഉയരങ്ങളിൽ (Uyarangalil) (1984)

Director: I V Sasi
Writer: M T Vasudevan Nair
DOP: Jayanan Vincent
Cast: Mohanlal, Rahman, Nedumudi Venu, Kajal Kiran
Language: Malayalam

Mohanlal is an ambitious assistant manager in a tea estate who along with two of his colleagues decides to steal company's money. He is the chief planner and lures the other two into his plan as all three are in need of money. The plan doesn't come off and they are caught by the manager who extracts a confession letter which he is gonna present it to the board to dismiss them. Mohanlal goes to negotiate with him, while the other two are reluctant and remorseful, and ends up killing him. His career takes off after that as he is promoted as the manager but his co-conspirators and a Police officer who suspects him are a constant nuisance.

I had caught glimpses of this film from TV but hadn't seen it in full. My friend Prajeesh recommended it to me, like Chandrika was recommended to Amala Paul by her friend Ria. It is an underrated gem of a film with a protagonist who is genuinely 'bad', which is such a unique thing for Indian films. You will have people pointing out Spadikam and Devasuram as examples of films in which Mohanlal played characters who are not socially correct. But you are meant to root for those characters and they don't stay 'bad' for too long.

In Uyarangalil, Mohanlal's character is a genuine villain but I still ended up rooting for him and wanted him to succeed so that the film doesn't have a 'Crime doesn't pay' message kind of ending. It doesn't take that route but does even better by leaving us questioning whether he is also a hero. It doesn't come up in a twist kind of way because I was able to tell what was going to happen next which means it happened organically.
The choices made by the character is consistent in the sense that he was forced to commit the murders to serve his survival needs and ambition. The best thing about the portrayal is that it is done in an understated matter of fact way. That is so essential because that is how he gets away with it for so long. I haven't seen any of MT's period films quite recently but I do think his films set in contemporary times are better and often overlooked. Uyarangalil is not perfect and Rahman's very obviously fake beard is thoroughly distracting but it is such a different film done with no apologies and the last lines, screenshot posted here, should be quoted much more. Other film I could think of where our big 'heroes' played a genuinely bad character is Vidheyan. Difference is that Mammooty's character is not the chief protagonist but the titular character is.

Rating: 4/5