As an actor, Jayasurya has this incredible ability to transform into characters with complete conviction. His performance as Murali in the latest Malayalam movie Vellam is nothing short of brilliant. But the underwhelming side of this Prajesh Sen movie is that it somewhere forgot to acknowledge the actor’s capability and goes after a climax that has a stark contrast from what one would have expected. I love movies taking unpredictable detours from the desired trajectory. But the one in Vellam was a bit too much to accept.
Murali, someone who used to work in a tile factory, is our central protagonist. He is married to Sunitha, and they have a daughter. Murali is an alcoholic, and he no longer goes to work these days. He can’t start a day without having some alcohol, and the family had gone through a lot of humiliation because of this situation of Murali. The events that happened in Murali’s life in his deaddiction journey is what we see in Vellam.
The Great Indian Kitchen was released last week, and everyone is still talking about it. I am drawing a comparison here because of the treatment issue I felt in Vellam, which was apparently not there in a movie like The Great Indian Kitchen. If you look at the Jeo Baby movie, the statements made by the film are extremely subtle and, at the same time, very strong. Here you have characters uttering multiple lines for the same. There is a hospital sequence featuring actor Siddique where Prajesh Sen is literally making him say what they wanted to convey through the movie. It wants to be a nonpatriarchal movie that has a strong female character. But when you hear dialogues like “Are you a feminist?” in the middle of a conversation somewhere, it feels like the director forcefully added that layer to the story. Because towards the end, our hero is eventually asked to protect his wife and daughter.
The major attraction of this film is indeed the fabulous performance of Jayasurya. Murali is a genuinely flawed character, and he has presented the roughness and the helplessness of an alcoholic with utmost perfection. In a movie that had far too many preachy dialogues, his character was on the minimal side when it comes to exchanges, and that sort of made the performance even more heartening. Dialogue delivery was one area where Samyuktha Menon had failed in the past, and I was pleasantly surprised to see her handle the slang very comfortably. In terms of the body language and attitude, also she made Sunitha a believable, strong woman from a normal middle-class family. As usual, Siddique was graceful in his character, and Prajesh Sen had assigned the preaching task up on that character.
Even though the recurring series of mishaps in Murali’s life and commercial compromises like the Shaap song, in the beginning, was not making the movie thoroughly engaging, the way Prajesh Sen had used the visual medium and the performance of Jayasurya generated a sense of curiosity in me as a viewer. Roby Varghese Raj’s cinematography had some quality frames that depicted the state of mind of our hero very effectively. The inability of the script to say its intentions without being overly verbal was a significant drawback. And the Thaniyavarthanam met CIA type transition that happens in the climax was a major bummer for me. It was so pretentious that I felt some might even forget that Jayasurya did an award-worthy performance in the same movie. Bijibal’s songs are nice, but some of them felt unnecessary, especially in the first half, and in the second half, it felt like there were way too many songs.
If Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam is your go-to inspiration movie (not mine), Vellam will work for you. After setting up a character and his world that looked wonderfully original, Vellam goes after a familiar track with a climax it never needed. I would have been a much happier viewer if the movie had ended after Murali’s second meeting at the V Guard headquarters.
After setting up a character and his world that looked wonderfully original, Vellam goes after a familiar track with a climax it never needed.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended