Review By : Movie Run Time : 2 hour 40 minutes Censor Rating : U/A

Production: August Cinema Cast: Ahaana Krishna, Chandunadh Direction: Shanker Ramakrishnan Screenplay: Shanker Ramakrishnan Story: Shanker Ramakrishnan Music: A.H Hasif Background score: A.H Hasif Cinematography: Sudeep Elamon

Director Shanker Ramakrishnan's Padhinettam Padi is structured as a retelling by one of the film's central characters, Ashwin Vasudev (the older version is played by Prithviraj), founder of a school named as 'School of Joy', as he reminisces the journey that went into the making of his present. Padhinettam Padi is a high-school drama that is infused with a lot of hyper-masculine action between alpha-male characters.

The film deals with a warring conflict between two groups, one belongs to the Government model school and the other hails from a posh international school. The former group is headed by Ayyappan, a quick-tempered teenager and a young Ashwin was the leader of the latter group. The film introduces its revolving door of characters in a quick succession, without being hasty. The introductory part unfolds in style, where characters' names are displayed in marquee. The film has no intention to linger. Padhinettam Padi delves much into the politics of class conflict without being too arty in approach. The writing at the initial moments really sustains the feud between the groups by throwing a lot of conflicts.

The first half introduces us with a lot of impressionable characters, like the enthusiasm-filled English teacher Joy. The lighter moments of school life is shown through moments of idealism, like the stretch where Ayyappan and his group tries to raise funds for creating a transport facility to their school. The heroism is portrayed through such well-constructed parts, despite inserting some empty moments of bravado and glorified violence. The sequences that are set in the Government school is shot and staged in a very imaginative way, and the film manages to transport us to a rain-soaked small town atmosphere through well staged moments.

The film gets into the trappings of generic filmmaking in its portrayal of the public school, where everyone is a spoilt brat who parties at fancy resorts. This jarring portrayal becomes a bit typecast and one-note at this aspect and fails to evoke the sense of mood that was created in the earlier portions. But the well-crafted filmmaking and the endearing characters make up to it. Sudeep Elamon's energetic camerawork gels really well with the impulsive nature of adolescence, with more dynamic movement in the action sequences that creates urgency. For instance, take the fight sequence that unfolds in a double-deckered bus, every kick feels real and the segue is seamless. The film does play in the familiar zone of high-school dramas, but the adrenaline-pumping direction and indelible characters compensate for the flaws.

The interval point is a well-directed cliffhanger that is much more organic. However, after the central conflict gets dissolved through a ghastly turn of events, the second half introduces much more plot points that might not match up to the initial conceit. There is a subplot involving the Education Minister (Suraj Venjaramoodu in an effective cameo) and a last minute display of alternative eductation, which leads the story into predictable lines.

But still, there are some really poignant moments that are created through its plethora of characters, as we see Ashwin slowly gain acceptance from his newfound company. The second half feels a bit overstretched and predictable but still manages to keep us invested due to the performances of a young cast. The music shows restraint in an inconsistent way and is packed with a hum-worthy soundtrack. Overall, Padhinettam Padi is well made commercial cinema with a neat ensemble performance.

Verdict: An engaging yet predictable action-drama powered by good filmmaking and performances


3 5 ( 3.0 / 5.0 )