Ganesh Raj’s first film Anandam was a college drama that the director himself had said was something entirely in his comfort zone. His second film Pookkaalam, which comes nearly 7 years after Anandam, has a departure from the first film regarding the theme. Still, the making sensibilities pretty much remain the same. Certain heartfelt moments in the film keep you interested in the movie. With a predictable story arc and unpredictable eccentricities, Pookkaalam is a passable feel-good family drama that needed a bit more polishing.
Ittoop and Kochuthresiamma, a couple in their late 90s, are our central characters. They have been married for almost 80 years now, and many members are in their elaborate family tree. One morning when everyone was getting ready for the engagement of Ittoop’s grandchild, Elsie, he got to know something about his wife. We see how that disrupts the entire family and how the family finds a solution collectively for this problem in Pookkaalam.
Ittoop is a patriarch with unacceptable ideologies for the woke generation. There is a part in the film where the blame goes to Ittoop’s court because of the inherent sexism in his behavior. The decision to present the elderly as vulnerable and flawed people was good, considering how they are stereotyped as packages of goodness. But the issue with the writing is that it wasn’t really exploring that phase in depth. By depth, I don’t mean spending too much time on that area. The areas where the film lingered felt slightly insignificant.
What stays with you after the film is definitely the performance of Vijayaraghavan as Ittoop. Since he himself has portrayed the younger version of the character, the effort and its perfection were clearly visible. In a scene where he argues with the advocate character played by Basil Joseph, one could see his fingers shivering. KPAC Leela as Kochuthresiamma was another performance gem. Even though the role had many moments of high drama, the portrayal was natural and subtle. Annu Antony, as the grandkid who takes the initiation for a solution and the one who actually empathizes with both of them, delivered a convincing performance. Ganesh had made Elsie an aimless and lazy character, and Annu could present that character without being too unreal.
Even though Basil Joseph and Vineeth Sreenivasan are avoidable characters in the story, their performances work for the movie. Their eccentricity was more hilarious than the one shown by the characters key to the story. Out of the many names in the cast, one performance that worked really well for me was from Ganga Meera. She performed the emotional moments very neatly. Jagadish, as Kochouseph, was convincing in the younger version. The voice modulation felt a bit artificial when he became that old man, just like the getup. Johny Antony, Suhasini, Arun Kurien, Abu Salim, Sarath Sabha, Radha Gomathy, Sarasa Balussery, Roshan Mathew, and many more are part of the elaborate cast of Pookkaalam.
The plan is to make a feel-good film with a lot of characters. And to an extent, Pookkaalam succeeds in achieving that. The humor actually takes time to crack. The comedy featuring the twins was just not working. And it was actually from the moment Vineeth Sreenivasan was introduced the humor started to flow correctly. As I said, Kochuthresiamma’s reasons are genuine. It was a gray space that our films, especially feel-good films, rarely explored. Somewhere the decision to make the movie a lot funnier made them explore the emotional track conveniently and predictably with fewer risks. Anend C Chandran gives a pretty intimate and light touch to the frames. The character positioning in certain frames enhances the humor, like the family meeting with the lawyer played by Johny Antony.
On a scale of Jis Joy to Anjali Menon, Ganesh Raj has definitely passed the Jis Joy zone of feel-goodness. But the shortcomings in the writing and the over-dependence on humor to make things engaging somewhere drags the movie backward. With quality performances, apt casting, and sporadic moments of happiness, Pookkaalam is engaging. But looking at the issue it addressed, you kind of feel they had an opportunity to deliver something better.
With a predictable story arc and unpredictable eccentricities, Pookkaalam is a passable feel-good family drama that needed a bit more polishing.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended