Sunday, June 23, 2024

‘Vellaripattanam’ movie review: Manju Warrier, Soubin Shahir in a stale political satire

Manju Warrier and Soubin Shahir in stills from ‘Vellaripattanam’

Manju Warrier and Soubin Shahir in stills from ‘Vellaripattanam’
| Photo Credit: Manorama Music Songs/YouTube

Early on in Vellaripattanam, K.P Suresh (Soubin Shahir), a local politician who is yet to find any success in his calling, tells his sidekick (Krishna Shankar) about the experiences he has gone through in the past. “Should we go in for a flashback?” the sidekick asks him. “It might be a bit cliched, but we can still go for it,” replies Suresh. For the next few minutes, we get a quick rewind of his campus politics days and a twist of fate that led to his sister K.P Sunanda (Manju Warrier) becoming a successful politician at the panchayat level. All this while, the sidekick who has been with him since childhood listens intently to the entire story, just so that the audience too gets this information.

This self-awareness of the makers, that they are dealing in cliches while proudly going ahead and showering us more of the same, is the most striking aspect of Vellaripattanam, Mahesh Vettiyar’s debut directorial. It never strays from the template that has been set over the years for perhaps one of the most over-exploited genres in Malayalam cinema — political satire. Shining through the entire movie is a surface-level understanding of politics in Kerala, which is then peppered with the kind of political stereotypes that one gets in Whatsapp forwards.

Vellaripattanam (Malayalam)

Director: Mahesh Vettiyar

Cast: Manju Warrier, Soubin Shahir

Runtime: 140 minutes

Storyline: Siblings Suresh and Sunanda, part of rival groups within the same political party, compete for a seat in the panchayat elections

The events are happening in the fictional Chakkarakudam panchayat — which the makers have viewed as a stand-in for a typical panchayat in Kerala — with the usual mix of competing political fronts. Siblings Suresh and Sunanda, part of rival groups within the same political party, share a love-hate relationship. Suresh is frustrated with his constant failures to secure a seat in the panchayat elections. He is also envious of his sister’s rise. Sunanda has endeared herself to the people by actively working on the ground and with her own bag of tricks to gain an upper hand within the party. Suresh’s intense wish to get a seat for himself makes him think of drastic measures, but not too drastic because this is not that kind of a film.

The scriptwriter ensures that the sibling rivalry does not become too antagonistic, sneaking in a scene showing how they care for each other every time things start getting tough between them. Yet, such care is not taken in portraying various sections, especially the employment guarantee scheme workers, who are shown sleeping on the ground where they are supposed to be working. As for the way the political parties are portrayed, some of the things that they are shown to be indulging in seem too far-fetched even for a political satire. Not to forget, Suresh even gets a love interest and a song sequence, only for him to almost forget her existence till the climax.

Vellaripattanam is a stale political satire that doesn’t try to do anything new, ending up as a pale imitation of some past hits.

Vellaripattanam is currently running in theatres

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