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Review: Mammootty’s 'Puzhu' Deserves Applause For Taking On Caste Head On
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Review: Mammootty’s 'Puzhu' Deserves Applause For Taking On Caste Head On

Puzhu marks Mammootty's digital debut.

Updated
Movie Reviews
3 min read

Puzhu

Review: Mammootty’s 'Puzhu' Deserves Applause For Taking On Caste Head On

Ratheena PT’s directorial debut Puzhu is a deeply political film couched in many shades of grey. The film marks Mammootty’s digital debut and has the ageing superstar playing a complex character. Puzhu addresses both Dalit and Muslim politics, and themes such as ostracism and vengeance come alive on screen.

30 years after playing a very likeable Pappa to Appu in the blockbuster Pappayude Swantham Appoos (1992), Mammootty is back playing a single father again, this time in a totally opposite avatar. Mammootty’s Kuttan is a detestable figure right from the outset; a widower and a control freak engaged in constantly nagging and disciplining his pre-teen son Kichu.

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Review: Mammootty’s 'Puzhu' Deserves Applause For Taking On Caste Head On

(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

In Puzhu Ratheena and the writers – the trio of Harshad, Sharfu and Suhas – take the narrative forward from Kuttan’s viewpoint, but do not balk from highlighting the prejudice and casteism of the protagonist, leaving the viewer to make their judgment. There is an element of tension throughout, and there is enough to keep the viewer hooked to the screen. However the audience is left to grope in the dark on the motives and reasons for the attempts on Kuttan’s life as the protagonist himself, with little detail on the character’s past.

For Mammootty Puzhu is a real departure from his routine of doing pointless films back-to-back, as if he were on short notice, broken only by the onset of Covid.

Post Munnariyippu (2014) Mammootty hasn’t really portrayed a character with grey shades, and the sheer fact that he went on to don this role is testament to his self-belief. The superstar explained away in a recent interview that he never flinched from taking up such roles and that he could only choose from what is offered to him.

Review: Mammootty’s 'Puzhu' Deserves Applause For Taking On Caste Head On

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Mammootty also dominates the proceedings on screen, with other characters including Parvathy Thiruvoth’s ‘Acchol’ flitting in and out of the frames. Appunni Sasi in a pivotal part as theatre actor Kuttappan makes an impact, his natural flair and Kozhikode accent making for a refreshing act. So does Vasudev Sajeesh Marar as young Kichu.

It must be noted here that Mammootty continues to be beset by the struggle to play the part of a younger man. Aging is a fact of life and there is only so much you can do to roll back the years. At some point you risk being inanimate, like a wax statue at Madam Tussauds, expressions becoming the casualty in the process. The only way to overcome that is to embrace age and the sooner Mammootty does that the better for him and the audience.

Puzhu might be politically correct and must be commended for that but it is only incidental for a film as a product. Essentially a film has to tick many more boxes and right intentions alone don’t suffice.

Puzhu does ask uncomfortable questions of viewers but one also gets the feeling that some of it is for the sake of it than for story-telling purposes, a result of the political leanings of its makers.

The team definitely deserves applause for taking caste head-on, especially in a deeply hypocritical society such as Kerala.

For all its imperfections, Puzhu is a commendable debut effort from Ratheena PT. As with many recent films in Malayalam, Puzhu’s pitfalls probably emanate from too many cooks spoiling the broth, where scripting is a collaborative, thus, conciliatory effort. Notwithstanding the fact that Malayalam Cinema has always emulated Hollywood in leaving things unsaid, Puzhu leaves the audience with too much to guess, taking a bit of pleasure out of the viewing experience, making it darker than warranted. The film’s runtime of less than two hours is a plus and Puzhu is definitely worth a watch.

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