Films that involve Mohanlal-Mammootty combination has the tendency to send frenzy across Kerala due to their popularity and rivalry between fans. When a movie like Harikrishnans, which involves Bollywood superstar Juhi Chawla as the heroine torn between them, the filmmakers had to make two climaxes to satisfy both the actor’s fanbases. Harikrishnans is the 1998 thriller cum romantic comedy film by acclaimed director Fazil.
Harikrishnan associates is a lawyers association which involves over 300 lawyers, situated all over India headed by Harikrishnan “Hari” (Mammootty) and Harikrishnan “Krishnan” (Mohanlal). They are asked to defend the challenging case of a man named Gabriel who is falsely accused of murdering a college professor named Guptan, the case is given to them by Hari’s sister Amalu (Baby Sharmili) who befriended Gabriel. Guptan (Rajiv Menon), on his way to the remote place, happen to make good friends with Meera (Juhi Chawla). With Meera’s help, after a stormy court session, Hari and Krishnan sets out to find Guptan’s real killers. Amidst all this, both Hari and Krishnan develop feelings towards Meera and vice versa, which puts Meera in a state of dilemma.
Now, the movie has typical structure seen in a Fazil film which involves shifting of POV from one character to next, involving an entirely different scenario from the second half. The movie starts with a journey where Guptan and Meera meet each other, and Amalu’s introduction. Amalu is depicted as a 11-year-old girl with an IQ of 21-year-old. She meets and befriends Gabriel who was perceived as a spine-chilling rowdy by Amalu’s friends. This particular aspect was quite interesting as we get to see Gabriel’s soft side, in a way calling attention to the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Amalu’s IQ could have been an integral addition to the plot, but all this last only till Hari and Krishnan’s entry. It doesn’t matter if Amalu’s involvement hasn’t evolved as per the circumstances; like her joining them in the investigation and all, that would be silly. But she literally disappears from the screen and story shifts to Hari-Meera-Krishnan love triangle. So the question is, if that is all then why include the character of a young girl with high IQ in the first place? Seemingly, it is for sake of receiving all the insults from the prosecutor (Jagadheesh) where he pointed out that she might have had a physical relationship with Gabriel as she expressed his love for him in the court. To make things beyond belief, Hari looks too cool in the court while he watched his sister being “abused” openly in the court. By the second half Gabriel, who is given ample build-up at the beginning, also vanished. We completely forget about this falsely accused guy.
Meera, on the other hand, has a good character buildup, even better than both Hari and Krishnan. She belongs to a modern family raised by her father who is liberal-minded. She travels alone, hangs out with men with no intention other than friendship and she stands up for her own reasons. We get to experience the rivalry between Hari and Krishnan, as both are trained lawyers who earn their living by winning cases. The entertaining aspect is their quest to win Meera’s heart, where they throw insults and tantrums at each other. Notable scene is the ones where they talk about each other’s facial deformities and the ones where they are forced to eat horrible food intentionally cooked by Meera to test their loyalty. Then, there is an abnormal shift of genre that forces the audience to focus on the love aspect and not the investigation. So, Harikrishnans is actually a romantic comedy film with mystery underlining it. That is how people will remember it, and for the number of flaws related to this film.
And the story related to the investigation itself is cheesy when analysed closely. Five students wanted their “good-looking” teacher to have a marital life, so they played a trick on him, which went bad, what kind of students will actually have the mind to do it? Malayalam films have a bad rap for presenting suspense thriller while carrying love story, songs and comedy mixed with the thrills. It will be harsh to critique the technical aspects, judging by the fact that Malayalam film industry is like a family and due to the lack of technology that could raise bars for the film’s appeal. The cinematography, sound, and editing highlights everything about the ’90s era, from less angles, movement, light texture and slow cuts. Even then, the movie managed to have the appeal for the audience. Costumes and settings are up to the point but Nedumudi Venu’s make up was not apt as he looked young for a 60-year-old and his wig is obvious. Also, Meera is overdressed with “painted face” during most of the serious situations including the investigation scene, as if she is walking the ramp rather than questioning the suspect. Most of the songs were unnecessary like “poojabhibam” which plays after Meera’s confrontation with Hari and Krishnan, making it cheesy. But the one thing that is remembered well about this film other than the superstar combination is the songs. Both Mohanlal and Mammootty did well in their respective roles, Mohanlal was more impressive due to his versatility; he has better comic timings and his emotional scenes are done with ease, whereas Mammootty shined better if he has strong dialogues. And he has the glamour. Most of the dialogue scenes between Mohanlal and Mammootty were too mechanical, was it done intentionally? Juhi Chawla is the bubbly vibrant woman we know from movies like qayamat se qayamat tak, darr and ishq. Her personality and facial expressions make her likable even if the question related to her casting is raised. Baby Sharmili has not shed her “Malootty” image yet but she made an impression. Kuchacko Boban delivered a strong performance for the less screen time he was in.
In spite of being a blockbuster which generated hype due to the onscreen reunion of Mammootty and Mohanlal after 7 years, the film indeed faced its own set of criticisms in terms of the structure, cliches and predictable climax. Inspite of these flaws, there is an invisible force within this film that sparks an individual’s desire to see it when they come across it on TV. I know every single flaw, yet if Harikrishnans is playing in TV right now probably I will sit down and watch it. What makes Harikrishnans that attractive? The comic sequences, like the ones where Hari and Krishnan bitch about each other feelings for Meera and Innocent’s comic timings are fun, although Maniyanpilla Raju’s appearance is abhorrent. Fazil’s direction always leave his signature and his vision always capture the lifestyle of characters even in an exaggerated context. But the structure is such that the movie is written in order to give priority to the superstars than the plot itself. Harikrishnans might make you cringe but it is an enjoyable entertainer, nothing more.
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