Critic’s Rating : / 5
Pathonpatham Noottandu Movie Review : A heartfelt historical narrative
Review: Filmmaker Vinayan has created a cinematic masterpiece with a poignant tale that takes the audience back to the 19th century, the era where the princely states of Travancore witnessed the reformation movement which resulted in extensive socio-cultural changes in the society.
Period dramas with stunning visuals, larger than life sets and a taste of history have always entertained the movie buffs irrespective of language. What happens when such a film also throws light on the darkest episodes of one of the biggest social evils that existed and still exists in society?
Vinayan, who has also scripted and written dialogues for the film, explores the social hierarchy, prejudice and injustice prevailing in the name of caste system by narrating the story of Arattupuzha Velayudha Chekavar, touted to be the first martyr of the Kerala renaissance from the 19th century.
Velayudha Chekavar, born into an affluent Ezhava family, is a hardworking trader and an expert in kalaripayattu and martial arts. After accidentally reacting against the savarna supremacy, he then makes it his life mission to fight this. He stands against everything that is unfair, including supporting Nangeli in her fight against breast tax and the right of women to cover their chests and building a temple that opens its doors to people belonging to all castes. The film tells the tale of Velayudhan’s influence in transforming the psyche of society.
A remarkable attempt to depict a story from the past, cinematographer Shaji Kumar, production designer Ajayan Challissery, costumer Dhanya Balakrishnan and editor Vivek Harshan have done a fantastic work, which is amazingly backed by Santhosh Narayanan’s score and M Jayachandran’s music.
Siju Wilson showcases an epic performance as Velayudha Chekavar by submerging himself in the warriors’ skin. The hardwork and sincerity of the actor in bringing perfection to everything in the character – the horse rides to subtle responses – make the character immortal. Kayadu Lohar genuinely makes the dalit woman Nangeli, who stood against casteism by revolting against the breast tax, monumental. It was a pride to watch her effortlessly moving around and giving complete justice to the legendary woman from Cherthala. Vishnu Vinay who played Kanna Kurup has also done a fabulous job and is a promising actor. Every performer on screen was a treat to watch.
It is impressive to watch director Vinayan, who has faced much flak from the industry, returning with all glory – making an outstanding period drama by roping in actors, not stars. Also, he has to be appreciated for choosing a subject that has never been told. If in 2018, Black Panther made a cinematic history by having a black superhero on big screen, Pathonpatham Noottandu needs a special accolade for bringing the story from the perspective of the underprivileged during the nineteenth century to the silver screen. Finally, there is some representation. However, depiction of women succumbs to male gaze which include Nangeli being on the fair-skinned side.
On the whole, Pathonpatham Nootandu is a fictitious historical spectacle that offers a perfect cinematic experience. Let’s time-travel to an era that made all the difference.
– Anjana George