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Mohanlal's 'Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea' Is an Epic Disappointment
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Mohanlal's 'Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea' Is an Epic Disappointment

Review of 'Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea' starring Mohanlal.

Updated
Movie Reviews
4 min read

Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea

Mohanlal's 'Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea' Is an Epic Disappointment

Filmmaker Priyadarshan's much-awaited Mohanlal-starrer Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham (Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea) has finally hit theatres, after a long delay due to the pandemic and dithering by the producers on its release platform. Its scale is said to be huge and so is all the publicity around the multi-crore period film.

There are two ways you can watch Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham. Get right into the hype and bombast of its reputation as the most expensive Malayalam film ever made, and then get disappointed. Or go in with no expectations and just warm vibes of seeing a new Mohanlal saga on a large screen with an audience. There are are less chances of getting disappointed with the second option.

Marakkar tells the story of Kunjali Marakkar IV, a pirate turned admiral of the fleet of the Zamorin of Kozhikode. Set in 16th century Malabar, it follows Kunjali’s life from a young, in love novice through to battle after battle with actual evil forces and the demons of his past within.

Priyadarshan and Mohanlal have made several memorable blockbusters together, here unfortunately, they don’t quite replicate that magic… yet both are by now such consummate maestros at this game, that they are pretty much able to churn out storylines that flow effortlessly.

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Mohanlal as Kunjali is a swashbuckling hero of the masses, fighting injustice and the Portuguese. Cleverer than everyone, braver than all, super centred and even more indestructible than anyone else… thanks to a locket blessed by his mother. (Priyadarshan has spent too long a time in the Hindi film industry, quite clearly. He even has the hero refusing to pick up something thrown ala Deewar). Actually most of the film is predictable. It’s one period film trope after the other. The only fresh aspect is the scale, and that's hardly going matter since the Malayalam film audience is quite intolerant of anything mediocre these days.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Manu Warrier in <em>Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.</em></p></div>

Manu Warrier in Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.

Yet, Marakkar is fairly watchable thanks to a star studded cast who all mete out solid performances. There’s the legend himself, the late Nedumudi Venu as the Zamorin King. Manju Warrier and Keerthi Suresh are as dependable as always. Their stunning looks is never what you actually notice, it’s always their character. The most striking performances are by the non-Malayalis, Tamil cinema greats Prabhu as Thangudu, a blustering warrior and Arjun Sarja as Anathan, probably the only character with any attempt at nuance were absolute show stealers.

Jay J Jakkrit, as Kunjali’s Chinese loyalist, seemed included in the film only to bring in the excitement of martial arts and break the monotony of sword fights. Sunil Shetty, Suhasini, Pranav Mohanlal, Kalyani Priyadarshan, all add to the drama. The production design by Sabu Cyril together with Tirru’s stunning cinematography are well done.

<div class="paragraphs"><p> A still from&nbsp;<em>Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.</em></p></div>

A still from Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.

The battle scenes in Marakkar on land are quite gripping. So are the navy wars. Yet, all of it strike you as nothing you’ve never seen before. Yes, some of the tricks used by Kunjali’s army against the all powerful Portuguese make you smile, but most of it is all the same. And less said about the tiring music the better.

What the much touted huge budget was spent on is a mystery to the viewer. Was it the locales which didn’t remotely look like Kerala or the special effects, or the Thai stunt master, or the out of state actors? Whatever it was spent on, it didn’t impact the viewer in any greater way than an ordinary period film would. And when you talk of period epics the inevitable benchmark Baahubali crops up, in which the grandeur and visual overdrive was just so astounding. But even so, the SS Rajamouli film had some really interesting plots and backstories that had the audience invested in every conniving detail of its characters. Marakkar however doesn’t have that effect. At all.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Prabhu in <em>Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.</em></p></div>

Prabhu in Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea.

The fault also lies in a languid, sluggish and quite half-baked storyline. If only the writers of Marakkar, Priyadarshan and Ani IV Sasi, had concentrated on having a tighter, tauter more interesting script. But the most intolerable aspect of Marakkar is its length at - three hours. I’ve never liked kids talking through a film, but that one child who kept asking his father - “Ee film eppah theeruva?” (When will this film end?) was literally all of us in the audience.

Marakkar could have been an epic about a forgotten hero brought to life by acknowledged masters. Rethought, reimagined and refreshed. The name being Marakkar: Arabikadlinte Simham - where is the exploration of Kunjali and the Arabian Sea. Just in passing? Kunjali using the sea as an ally against the Portuguese, his partnership with the ocean, what made him, what created that lion of the waves - none of these aspects are explored. Besides, finally the biggest war was fought on land. What a travesty!

Marakkar could have been an Omkara which rooted its Othello in a Meerut. Or a bizarre fantastical spectacle like Dune, set in a nowhere land so magnificent and unseen, which in itself makes you want to see the film again. Or a Chemmeen, the Thakazhi Sivashankara Pillai story that refreshed Malayalam cinema with its unusual music and treatment of the ocean. But Marakkar is nothing close to an experiment, it’s a disappointment after some great PR. Marakkar is just watchable and nothing beyond that. What could have been a sweeping starry sumptuous take on a little known hero from Kerala, is now just another period film.

Our Rating: 2.5 out of 5

(Sangita Nambiar is a writer, active theatre person and deep sea diving enthusiast. You can connect with her on Twitter @Sanginamby)

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