Director M Padmakumar has already built an image as one director who likes to present very different themes that are suitably woven to appeal to the middle stream film audiences of Malayalam. Starting from his 'Vargam, Vasthavam, and Shikar to Paathiramanal, each of his movies told a very dissimilar tale in varied backdrops. But each of the time , the director failed at some point of the narrative that in the final analysis has affected the commercial prospects of the above movies. Only 'Shikar' stood out of this collection as a mega hit, though it can be largely credited to the superstar Mohanlal who appeared in the lead role in the movie. Now in his latest 'Orissa', Padmakumar repeats the same mistakes and falter largely in the scripting departments and also in the pacing of the movie. Though with a very fine one line that could have been treated finely, the movie ends up as an attempt on a class fare that miscarries.
The movie is told through flashbacks, as aged Christhudas(Unni Mukundan) and his wife Suneyi( Sanika) is back to her homeland, Ganjam in Orissa, from where their love story started thirty three years back. Suneyi was born to the devadasi community and was expected to be offered to Kamadeva pradhan (Nigel Akkare) , the reigning chieftain as a ritual. Her elder sister Chandrabhage(Kanika) has already been transformed to a dasi and is in the mansion of the ruling Deva Pradhan, whose village believes that unless this ritual is done, the community is sure to suffer from calamities.
Ratnavally , Suneyi's mother who files a petition with the police against this ritual is shot dead by kamadevaa Pradhan. Following the effort s of Meerabhai (Thanushree Ghosh), a socialist local reformer, the govt arrests Pradhan and Suneyi is given a lakh rupee as compensation for her loss and two police man to take care off. The young Christhudas is one of the policemen who joins this special duty, in a dying harness vacancy. Within days, Suneyi and Christhudas find themselves in love for each other, though they speak very different languages. And on one harsh rainy day as they are forced to spend a night in a cave, the villagers find them guilty for acting against their traditions. Suneyi is taken hold by the Pradhan family who has decided to convert her as their dasi, on the festival of Agni paurnami. How Christhudas's unfathomable love helps them to start living together forms the rest of the tale.
The movie has excellent cinematography by Vinod Illampally and some great realistic sets and art direction, with eye on details. But a poor and erratic screenplay by G S Anil takes the heart out of the movie, making it look like a documentary. Much of the twists in tales are rarely explained, and we feel a lot of missing links in the narrative which goes back and forth in flashbacks. The treatment is old fashioned, with no suspense and thrills and with a saddening pace. The overly dramatic dialogues at some points really make you look at the watch, now and then. The climax is really poor, with the reason for a comeback of the protagonists unconvincing. Some of the songs by Ratheesh Vegha fit into the narratives, while most among the six songs comes up as speed breakers. The BG scores are pathetic and reminds you of national integration films.
The performances in the movie are but above par. Though his makeup appear unrealistic, Unni Mukundan comes up in a very convincing performance in a not so demanding role .His voice modulation is average at times, but his voice in narration gives an authentic tone. Sanika Nambiar in her debut roles impresses, but may not be a beauty to be called 'Gothambu Sundhari'. The pair shares zero chemistry on screen , which is also a letdown in this love story. The rest of the cast are ok in their roles.
The movie has plenty of colour , as it gives a fine detailing of the rituals and life styles of interior Orissa . The movie may get some rewards in the international film festivals. But Mollywood commercial front may not bless this Orissa, which is at least over lengthy by 30 minutes, .The massive effort to tell different tales in varied locales must not be overlooked, though.......