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Review by : Behindwoods review board
Starring: Mammootty, Sarath Kumar, Manoj K Jayan, Kanika Subramaniam, Padmapriya, Thilakan, Jagathi, Sreekumar, Suresh Krishna, Suman, Linda Arsenio
Direction: T. Hariharan
Music: Ilayaraja
Production: Gokulam Gopalan
Heroes of the Indian freedom struggle; the theme has never lost its appeal and probably never will. Pazhassi Raja presents an account of the life, times and struggles of one of India’s earliest heroes. The Malayalam original was released over a month back in Kerala and has broken almost every box office record without showing any sign of slowing down. It is with quite huge expectations that the dubbed version releases in Tamil.

First, the theme itself makes the film worth more than just a look. Set in Wayanad (the northern part of Kerala) in the late 18th century, the movie traces the path of Pazhassi Raja (Mammootty) who showed the courage to defy the powerful colonial forces that were threatening to take over his motherland. While kingdoms around him were making hurried alliances with the foreign forces to avoid war, and bending to every wish and whim and rule laid down by them, Pazhassi Raja felt it unacceptable that people who were allowed into the country for trade should begin to dictate terms. His defiance obviously doesn’t go down too
  Pazhassi Raja
well with the forces and a clash is inevitable. The colonial forces, armed with guns and cannons expect to overrun the sword and spear-wielding army of the Raja. The Raja does suffer losses, and is eventually forced to seek refuge in the thick jungles of north Kerala about which the British don’t have a clue. But, this is not before the very core of the British forces has been shaken by the valiant resistance that was put up, when they were expecting a meek surrender in an unevenly matched battle. In the jungle, with his faithful followers consisting of his trusted lieutenant Edachena Kunkan (Sarath Kumar), Pazhassi Raja gathers his forces for a powerful retaliation. He finds willing and able allies in the Tribals, led by Thalakkathu Chanthu (Manoj K Jayan), who know the jungles like no one else does. They devise a hitherto untried plan to counter the firepower of the British, guerilla warfare. In the thick cover of the jungle, the plan is perfect as the foreign forces don’t have a clue about who is hitting them and from where. It looks as if bow and arrow might ultimately get the better of the gun. But, treason lurks and it turns the course of events. But, the fight is not over yet. The Raja’s men shall not drop arms until none of them stands. That is what Pazhassi Raja is all about, a tale of martyrdom.

As said above, the theme itself makes the film worth more than just a look. To go nit picking the faults of such a movie could amount to a disservice to the sacrifices that sparked off the struggles that ultimately earned us our freedom. Yet, from a very objective point of view it can be said that the movie is perhaps a trifle too long. There are places where one feels that the screenplay (M.T. Vasudevan Nair) could have been a bit tighter, though it is flawless for most parts. The climax makes one feel patriotic with the Raja and his men making the ultimate sacrifice. The dialogues adapted to Tamil by Jayamohan convey the right emotions most of the time. The dubbing from Malayalam to Tamil has been done without many noticeable glitches which are commendable considering that the original uses the more classical, pure Malayalam of North Kerala in the 18th century which has very little Tamil influence.

Everyone in the cast has given their heart to the role. It is not always that an actor gets such an opportunity. Mammootty lives the role of Pazhassi Raja. Majestic and commanding, one of his best performances. The points when he has to try hard to summon courage and resilience even in the face of heavy losses to motivate his forces bring out the best in the actor. Sarath Kumar is excellent as Edachena Kunkan. His confrontation with another regional king and final act of sacrifice makes a great impression. Manoj K Jayan too has delivered with distinction. Padmapriya makes her presence felt in a challenging role while Kanika is a constant presence throughout the movie without getting much of a chance to perform. Senior performers like Nedumudi Venu, Thilakan and Jagathi Sreekumar leave their stamp behind in small but important roles.

Music by Ilayaraja carries the Maestro mark as usual. Resool Pookutty contributes with a fine effort, sounds come alive. The camera effectively captures the green terrain of Kerala. The film has been made with lots of effort and planning. One can see it in the number of extras that have been used in every scene. The efforts taken by the cast in the fight sequences impresses.

On the flip side, the nativity factor goes missing in the Tamil version which is expected. The costumes, the architecture and everything are very much characteristic of Kerala and hearing Tamil dialogues in this setting takes a bit of getting used to.

Pazhassi Raja is a film that reminds us of the price at which freedom came. It is one great effort and definitely needs to be received with an open mind. A few shortcomings notwithstanding, it is an opportunity: for those who know about these heroes to remember them once again and for those young people who are yet to hear these names to get to know about them and their sacrifices. We would love to see more movies like these.

Verdict: Its time to remember!
             The Raja conquers hearts

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