'Pardesi' is a powerful film. Made with an eye on the international audience, the film deals with the plights of people who necessarily are on the struggle to be on the land where they were born and where they love to be. It deals with the universal subject about the real life stories of hundreds of people who are left alien in their own land, due to lack of documents to prove themselves, and their identity. With the premise of the movie being identity and displacement , this P T Kunju Mohammed film is also about the misinterpretation of reasons to be and not to be a loyal citizen, and how this has been turned into a business for decades by unscrupulous elements from the bureaucracy, particularly policemen who mould it to suit their interests.
The film has Mohanlal as an octogenarian character Valiyakathu Moosa, one of hundreds of Malayalees who left to work in Karachi during the days of the British Raj, who after independence returned to India in the 1960s to settle in Malappuram. They do not have an Indian passport or even an address in the land they were born in, due to their plight in Pakistan during the time of separation and independence. As the war came up between the neighboring countries, many from the police and associated bureaucracy started looking upon them as Pakistani spies, and many a times they were seen as foreigners in their own land and is repeatedly deported.
Mohanlal portrays three stages in the life of Moosa, in his 35, 60 and 80's... The narrative moves into the past and returns in flashbacks with alarming regularity, which is used a technique to unfold the plot and present the characters, as is collected by a freelance journalist Usha, who is researching on the subject. Being a pet to Moosa, Usha (Padmapriya) uses the opportunity to use his connections to spot the Pakistani passport holders in the district, who are also disposed of their home land. And thus we are presented his old friends like Abdul Rahman (Jagathy) Usman (T.G Ravi), Mustafa (Siddique) and Moosa's first love Khadeeja (Lakshmi Gopalasamy) who were also denied citizenship for no fault of theirs.
The film does not involve you immediately. It is alien territory, for some, and you have to pay keen attention to what its protagonists are talking about. But in the acting departments, it has some of the best seen in recent times. Mohanlal proves once again that he is among the top in the list of the best actors in the country today. Not only does he breath life into his character but also carries on with its ethos with restraint emoting, till the end. He is at his best with a passive body language and a growing bewilderment regarding his own inability to react to what's happening around him. This could have been the best, if he had given a little more importance to the dialogue delivery. Pattanam Rasheed's loud makeup often hampers the effectiveness in which the actor glides through the proceedings.
Shwetha Menon as Ameena, the wife of Moosa is the surprising package in the film who ease through the role effectively with the singular voice to effeminate body language, down to the adroit manner in which she adjusts her spectacles. Jagathy who appears in very few scenes steals the show with the artistry of the seasoned actor. Padmapriya also excels as Usha, a role tailor made for her. Siddique, T G Ravi, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Sona Nair and a couple of new comers also bring in some meaty performances, which make the characters real.
But good performances alone cannot save a film. The direction and cinematography are average at best and the film has its fair share of problems. Even though the film has a promising and powerful theme, the handling reminds you of the films of the eighties that we have done with. The pace is agonizingly gradual at times, an