Friday, 8 April, 2011

Movie Review : Urumi

Based on the history of Vasco de Gama in Kerala, this film builds around some key events of the period and is essentially a revenge drama. The story pretty much follows any Indian movie built around the historical events involving foreigners.

1. Incredibly evil and greedy foreigners commit atrocities on the poor and well meaning Indian population (dog ears grafted on to well meaning Indian envoy and so on).
2. The hero builds a rag tag, ill equipped team that stand up to the foreigners with much dialogue baazi and musical interludes.
3. Pitched battles are fought with this team overcoming superior odds but the hero (and his irritating sidekick) eventually succumb.
4. A point is proved?

Think Kranti, Mangal Pandey, what have you and this is the framework. No different here. The key to making a good movie out of this hackneyed premise is execution. That, this movie does not have.

First off, there is no character development. Everyone in this movie is two dimensional. In fact so little seems to have been done in this department that you come out feeling for Jagathy's role as Chenichery Kurup, for the sheer effort the man brings to playing the part. As far as the lead actor Prithviraj goes, it looks like the director asked him to continue with the expression used to play the possessed character in Ananthabhadram and sleep walk through the role. The bad to average acting is then made worse by the body language adopted by the actors, seemingly with the intention of making the visuals look attractive. Movements and poses are highly exaggerated, almost resembling a dance ballet at times.

Second, the action scenes are so badly choreographed that they are worthy of any B grade movie. The battle scenes consist of extras running onto fields and contorting themselves to strike pseudo-kalari poses. The climax is in a league of its own with this amateurishness lovingly enhanced by the excessive use of slow motion.

Third, the script is very weak. Character development I have already mentioned but the script or screenplay has no narrative fluidity. The narrative has a jerky, contrived feel as though random events are being cobbled together to fill in the time until the final battle.

As far as technical excellence goes, the sets and costumes are pedestrian at best - a pastiche of papier mache and Fabindia fabrics.

The film has excellent photography and is very lush but can you watch random pretty pictures for three hours?

Sitting at a Multiplex in Bangalore, waiting for this movie to end, I began to wonder when the Indian film industry will ever mature. Santosh Sivan is a classic example. An excellent cinematographer by all standards but a director? If you google this film, you will be hard pressed to find a negative review. Most talk of "fantastic performances, technical artistry" and so on. Santosh Sivan the cinematographer is held in so much awe that no one wants to acknowledge that he is not exactly the best of directors. Come award season, and there will be people falling over each other to fete this film. Granted, I have not seen his entire directorial body of work but the three that I have - Ananthabhadram, Ashoka and Urumi are enough for me to conclude.

Urumi - "The boy who wanted to kill Vasco de Gama." The tagline should have warned me that this one is worth a miss.

Considering what Santosh Sivan did to Asoka in 2001, Vasco de Gama would have been turning in his grave as soon as this film was announced.

As an aside, if you want to watch a good Malayalam movie, watch "Pranchiyettan and the Saint." Great movie even though it could have done with a reduction of half an hour of running time with no detrimental effect on the overall outcome.

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