I wouldn’t say I got bored or never laughed watching the new Manju Warrier-Soubin Shahir film, Vellaripattanam. But whether any of it stayed with me when I left the theater, the answer will be a confident no. Political satires have not really happened in Malayalam frequently, and when you look at the increase in the apolitical population, that genre is almost the need of the hour. Vellaripattanam from Mahesh Vettiyar is so basic that you must be highly oblivious to the political reality to enjoy it as a satire.
Siblings Sunanda and Suresh are the central characters of the movie. They represent the same political party, UDP. But since Sunanda is a ward member, Suresh is envious of the power she enjoys. With upcoming elections around the corner, Sunanda is trying to maintain her existing seat while Suresh is focused on getting a seat to compete. How that battle goes is what we see in Vellaripattanam.
Chakkarakudam is the fictional village in which the story is set. The political power dynamic will remind you of whatever is happening in the political hemisphere of Kerala. Nobody is asking for logic here, as the idea of political satire is communicated to the audience very quickly. The issue is with the script, which wants to include everything in contemporary politics but isn’t much concerned about the story. Somewhere, the attempt to make it a conventional family movie with the brother-sister sentiment reduces the impact it would have had if it was conceived as an authentic political satire. Vellimoonga was one of the most memorable political satires in the last decade, and the reason was its unapologetic way of depicting the central character with all his crookedness.
The script feels like an amalgamation of multiple Sreekanth Vettiyar short videos (He has played a small role in this film). From Palarivattam bridge and party switching to resort politics, Mahesh Vettiyar and Sarath Krishna have created a list of events that should be included in their movie. But if they had prioritized having a compelling story, these humor addons would have worked beyond the 130 minutes of run time. The stereotypical notions about each political ideology are repeated here to satisfy the majority. And I must admit that the inefficiency of political parties will make you laugh along with the movie, even though it feels like an endorsement of an apolitical attitude.
As a single, free-spirited young woman, we do get to see glimpses of that energetic vintage Manju Warrier in the film. Frankly, those were the only relief moments. Soubin Shahir trying to deliver heavy dialogues in his usual dialect, sounded awkward. Krishna Shankar is there as the close aid of Soubin. Kottayam Ramesh, Shabareesh Varma, Pramod Velliyanad, Suresh Krishna, Salim Kumar, Veena Nair, etc., are also there in the long list of actors.
Political satire is a tricky genre. Because of the media culture we have today, there will be no problem in finding content. But if you can’t find a script in which these contemporary developments won’t fit, then the experience becomes a slog. Mahesh Vettiyar’s Vellaripattanam is clear about the elements it should tease but is clueless about how to structure it appealingly.
Mahesh Vettiyar's Vellaripattanam is clear about the elements it should tease but is clueless about how to structure it appealingly.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended