Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saving Heaven on Earth

When in Kerala it is almost a ritual that I watch at least one of the latest releases in a theatre. Last week after much exhortation by posters proclaiming a ‘Realistic thriller’ I watched ‘Evidam Swargam Aanu’. Falling many miles short of the claim, it is at best- in movie parlance- a wholesome family entertainer.

Rosshan Andrrews who made his directorial debut with the much acclaimed Udayananu Tharam (2005) and Notebook (2006) returns with Mohanlal as his lead again in Evidam Swargam Aanu. James Albert who scripted the campus politics and after related ‘Classmates’ follows with a tale of one man’s (Matthews-Mohanlal) battle of brawn and wits against a real estate mafia don, Aluva Chandy (Lalu Alex).

The first half of the movie draws laboriously with unrelated plots attempting to set a comic tempo ending with a faint fizzle. Matthews, a conscientious farmer runs the Jeremias Farm House (named after his father played by Thilakan), a model bio-vantage farm in Kodanaadu, an idyllic village on the banks of Periyar. The heaven like peace is shattered when Aluva Chandy and his goons start tormenting Matthews into selling off his hard earned and well nurtured land- first through physical threats and later false legal and criminal cases. The director not only highlights the modus operandi of fly by night real estate agents in sky rocketing the price of land through false promises of developing townships but also the depth of rot in the socio-political system through the numerous corrupt officials who all receive a pretty packet from Aluva Chandy.

As Matthews steps from one sinking stone to the other his counselor turns up in Sumathy (Lakshmi Rai) a bright and upright lawyer. Advocate Prabalan aka Koshy (Srinivasan) with his inherently left leaning dialogues and his amicus curiae proves to be the last nail in the extended mafia’s coffin.

Aluva Chandy rides prominently throughout the 2 hr 35 min duration as the stronger character with deep pockets and ready wit. Lalu Alex gives his performance of the decade clearly overshadowing the now (or rather of late) sagging and dullish Lal. Till the end atleast-when the tables are upturned, the movie heading to its logical conclusion with Chandy and his gang strangely bereft of their senses and schemes. Shankar-the star of the 80s before the arrival of Lal- makes an apologetic comeback as Sudheer, Matthews’ trusted friend. He and the other veterans like Thilakan, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sukumari and Maniyam Pillai Raju have sadly underdeveloped characters reduced to a few lines of dialogue and minimal onscreen time.

Evidam Swargam Aanu refreshingly lacks songs which have become mandatory in any Lal entertainer. The movie in spite of its larger message ends a tad foolishly with the ultimately successful Matthews having to choose his bride between Betsy (a TV journalist played by Priyanka, Maria (Lakshmi Gopalaswamy), who loses contention midway through the movie for a lack of bovine love and Sumathy who is finally seen being pulled by a calf before Matthews enters the scene to signify the return of heaven on Jeremias Farm House.

All in all a worthwhile Rs. 30 spent at the Ragam Theatre, Trichur. Would I pay Rs. 180-200 at a multiplex for the same? I guess heaven could wait.

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