In movies based on real-life incidents, the cinematic elements are usually added in a way one would know that certain phases in the screenplay are deliberately dramatized. Pada, directed by Kamal KM, is a film that has less interest in making it excessively cinematic. Instead of taking too much cinematic liberty to make it pleasing, Kamal KM works on the screenplay structuring to achieve the level of intrigue one would expect in a thriller.
In 1996, after the state government passed a land reformation bill that was against the interest of the tribals, a group of men decided to do something big that would grab the attention of the rule-makers. They decided to hijack the Palakkad district collector’s chamber and take him as a hostage. The negotiations that happened after the incident and the consequences people had to face after that are what Pada is portraying.
Democracy in its practical form has been a problematic entity as it always kept the underprivileged at the bottom of the food chain. The uproar from the tribal community was always suppressed by the people in power as the political gains were always at stake. Kamal’s film isn’t overtly vocal about its plan. The bureaucrats and politicians, whose ego got hurt in the proceedings of this incident, made life difficult for those who raised the voice and even for those who empathized with them. Pada basically shows you the life of the four men who decided to risk their lives for this cause. I found the movie fascinating because it adds a layer of depth to the four men despite having no backstories.
This was an effort to grab the attention of the authorities, and there were no major support or terror links to their attack. The focus of Pada is actually about the gamble these men took. Almost from the word go, Pada is approaching D Day. Kamal shows us the confusions and tensions of a gang who were clear about doing something dramatic but wasn’t sure about how to execute that. This inexperience and their clarity about what to achieve will make us root for these characters. Pada manages to be a good critique of the system without being an apolitical story. Sameer Thahir uses steady cam shots smartly to create an exciting narrative, and the blocking in scenes also conveys the shift in the drama. Vishnu Vijay’s choice of instruments for the background score added a peculiar feel to the film.
The main four characters pretty much have equal space in the narrative, and they each have a distinct character trait. Vinayakan as the leader Balu, plays the most composed one in the lot. Joju George as Aravindan is a hot-headed character, but there is a subplot in the story that shows us the humane side of that character, and Joju neatly did that transition. Kunchako Boban as Rakesh is extremely convincing. Dileesh Pothan, as Narayanankutty, portrayed the confusions of a guy who was recruited at the last minute.
Arjun Radhakrishnan, who made a solid impression as APJ Abdul Kalam in Rocket Boys, played the character of the district collector Dange, and he was really good at showing the composure of an IPS officer. Prakash Raj as the chief secretary portrayed the experience of a bureaucrat neatly. James Elia, Jagadeesh, Unnimaya Prasad, Indrans, Salim Kumar, and several other names are in the elaborate star cast.
Pada has an edge-of-the-seat narrative structure from the very beginning. Even though it isn’t an extravagant plot, the build-up they created looked real and extremely convincing. The docufiction ending of the film, which revealed the names of the real people who were involved in the incident, needed a narrative that would place the viewer at the center of the whole action. Kamal KM succeeded in creating that ambiance.
Pada has an edge-of-the-seat narrative structure from the very beginning. Even though it isn't an extravagant plot, the build-up they created looked real and extremely convincing.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended