During late 1700s in northern Kerala, Pazhassiraja(Mammootty) becomes increasingly dissatisfied by the rising interference of the British East India Company in the administration. Pazhassiraja had earlier sided with British against Tipu Sultan in order to gain independence for Malabar. But, now he feels cheated by the British. Pazhassiraja cannot comprehend how people who came to establish business can end up ruling a province!
Aided by Veeravarma(Thilakan), Pazhassiraja’s uncle, and, Pazhayamveedu Chanthu(Suman), Pazhassiraja’s protege, the British raids Pazhassiraja’s palace. Knowing about this move well in advance, Pazhassiraja’s wife, Kaitheri Maakkom(Kaniha) escapes with the help of her brother, Kaitheri Ambu(Suresh Krishna). But, a mishap during the escape leads to a miscarriage for Maakkom, which turns out to be a disappointment for Pazhassiraja and Maakkom as they have been childless for a long time.
The British plunders the Pazhassi’s palace. Enraged by this, Pazhassiraja decides to fight back. But he realizes British outnumbers him by might. So, he decides to wage guerilla warfare against the British in the dense jungles of Wyanad. The jungle will be a boon and a bane at the same time and he decides to enlist the tribals to wage an effective war. In order to wage the war, he assembles his trusted lieutenants, Edachena Kunkan(Sarathkumar) – a long time friend and a protege, Thalackal Chanthu(Manoj K Jayan) – a protege and a tribal leader and Katheri Ambu – his brother-in-law. Neeli(Padmapriya), Thalackal Chanthu’s fiancé, also joins the fight and leads the women. The farmers, who is disillusioned by the British rule because of the mounting taxes, also joins the army to fight against the British.
The rest of the movie chronicles the hardships faced by Pazhassiraja. Realizing it is difficult to wage a war with Pazhassiraja, the British agrees for a treaty. But the treaty does not last long and the war starts again. This time, Pazhassiraja have victories and also setbacks!
Hariharan directs this historical. It is not easy to portray the rise and fall of the Pazhassiraja without the numerous battles between his forces and British forces. The underlying story could be lost in between the action sequences. But Hariharan strikes a balance and is able to sustain the viewer’s attention while telling the story in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He focuses on the story and characters instead of the stars. However, the minus point of the movie is some of the techniques used in the action scenes. The rope and pulley method gives an unnatural feeling in many places. This could have been easily taken care of. In couple of scenes, the VFX is very evident especially Pazhassiraja watching the explosion of the British fort from a nearby hill and the Pazhassiraja appearing with the rising sun before the final confrontation with the British.
MT Vasudevan Nair pens the script for this movie. He comes out of hiatus as he has not penned any new script for any movies for a long time now. He is also in uncharted territory for him as he is chronicling the rise and fall of a ruler unlike emotions which is his forte. Even in this wide canvas, the anguish of Pazhassiraja is captured effectively using “MT”ish dialogues. The surprise elements in his script are Kaitheri Maakkom and Neeli. The women have a small but important part in the story and he has effectively highlighted the ferociousness and also resourcefulness of the women behind the men.
Mammootty is excellent as Pazhassiraja. It is impossible to think of anyone else essaying this role. He plays this role like a seasoned performer with restraint. Sarathkumar delivers a surprisingly good act in the second half. Coming with a background of Tamil movies, it is difficult to synchronize the dialogue and the body language in Malayalam. With this handicap, he gives a convincing act while garnering support of the Muslims for Pazhassiraja. Padmapriya’s Neeli is a departure from the roles she has portrayed so far. She is perfect and breathes fire during the action sequences. Manoj K Jayan is apt as Thalackal Chanthu which requires a lot of agility. But he could have been more convincing in some of the action sequences.
Resul Pookkutty has designed the sound. His craft is evident in the battle scenes. The theater rocks when the cannon is fired! Also, check out the mock fight between Pazhassiraja and Kunkan – swish of the swords and the sound of the shields striking against each other!
Go for this and make sure you watch it in a theater with good sound system.
Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia