Pulimurugan review: A Visual Wonder With Problematic Contents
14 Nov 2016
History is made in Malayalam cinema. For the first time, a film crossed 100 crore mark at the box office and it is none other than the box office emperor Mohanlal who achieved it. Mohanlal has the unique record of making 10 films which became an industrial hit; Irupathaam noothaand, Chithram, Kilukkam, Manichithrathaazhu, Chadralekha, Aaram thampuraan, Narasimham, Drishyam, Oppam and now, Pulimurugan. One does not simply mess with the ruler. But that being said, it is all due to Mohanlal’s hyper fanbase who would do anything and everything to ensure that, from attacking critics who gave negative reviews to having a fist fight with Mammootty fan club. A woman was bullied for giving a negative review. Well, the internet is already a dangerous place for women. So I am putting forward my appreciations as well as rants.
Murugan (Master Ajas) lives in the forest, with a good rapport with the scents, scenary, and species of the forest. As his life was going on with his father and toddler brother, he and his father were ambushed by a killer tiger. He witnesses his father sacrifice himself, after screaming at Murugan, asking him to run. Fueled for revenge against the beast which took his father’s life, Murugan and his uncle Balram succeeds in killing the tiger. Since that day he is called as the wild hunter “Pulimurugan” and he lives in commensal life with the villagers who offered motivation and support in return. Years later, Murugan (Mohanlal) is living with his wife Myna (Kamalinee Mukherjee) and daughter Chakki (Baby Durga) and he faces more challenges and threats.
First of all, it is very difficult to accommodate Pulimurugan in the category of macho films as it is a visual wonder with breathtaking cinematography and VFX. Malayalis could finally say that “yes, we have come beyond amateur CGI shown in Vinayan films” days with more realism. The hunting scenes and the Tiger looked perfect, creating the thrilling eerie feel on-screen. The first 35 minutes of this film is grand, visuals in the song “manathe marikurumbe” is spectacular. Each frame has movement and we are in the film. Cinematographer Shaji Kumar deserves the champagne and an award for the picturesque he created with his vision. Camera and photography department can use this film as a reference material. Master Ajas gets to shine in the first hunt where he lures the Tiger into a trap, that sequence is shot beautifully and I had goosebumps while watching it. I thought to myself, ‘we are seeing a revolution in terms technicals in Malayalam films‘. The production design, sets, and the scenery were amazing. Gopi Sundar’s background score and songs were memorable and had the impact. But then, the effect of these lasted only for a while.
Mohanlal is spectacular in his role and only he could pull off this role with charisma and class. He has the perfect looks of a guy with experience and to handle the moments with an adrenaline rush. But, his character is more of an avial. He is a tough hunter who unconditionally loves his family and younger brother. No one dares to mess with him and notably when he beats up the corrupt police offers led by the Ranger R.K, who lusts after his wife Myna. Yet, the same guy whimpers like a child before his wife’s tantrums and rude talks. Myna is perfectly justified of course. Kamalinee Mukherjee is horrendous, whose face was limited to one facial expression which similar to an angry wolf. She was downright annoying and she just a show-off. She is very rude and bossy around Murugan yet she is too timid during a real life crisis. There was a moment which gave scope for better development of her character. Ranger R.K stalks and chases her and she hides on top of a tree. When he sees her, she jumps from the top, lands on her feet and runs. She could have been someone similar to Neeli. She need not be an action heroine, who pulls off macho moves, but why not make her a character with integrity so that young girls could identify with her better. This is 2016 and yet women still resorted into “beneath a man” status. What is the point of all the women empowerment movements and actor’s message about women’s role in life? It is fruitless. Lal stuck to his standard performance. Bala just relived his ‘puthiyamugam’ image and Vinu Mohan is only average. Gopakumar is fantastic in his role.
It is meaningless for me to put forward my rants here as this movie is meant for teenage boys and men. Since this is a film which created history, I am pointing out several problematic elements. Forget about the typical content which includes; a macho hero, gruesome villain and ornament heroine. Forget about the jokes related to dowry, rape, sex, and animal cruelty. The biggest problem is the glorification of stalking and peeping bedrooms & bathroom, through the character Sasi (Suraj Venjaramoodu). He has the affinity to peep into the room through a window when women are changing her clothes and when couples are having sex. He “offers” to peep for Balaram’s mother-in-law while she was ranting about the potential pregnancy of her daughter. Balaram is a self-proclaimed sex addict and “favorite” of Sasi’s. Sasi is described as a “njaramrogi” (pervert) and yet he is simply treated as an everyday person by the main characters. If you know a person as an eccentric pervert then he should be thrown out, or the liberal ones will put him jail. Hopefully, this will register in someone’s head, as much as I loathe rape jokes and jokes which demean women’s status after all she’s done for the society, it is absolutely horrendous from the filmmaker’s part to glorify this disgusting activity. I listened to the audience, many people (including women) laughed and applauded when Sasi was talking about how he peeped and, during the scene where he flirted with a woman in Daddygirija’s house. Such scenes might look funny in films but in real life, it is not. Women are terrified of such characters and her personal freedom is taken away by her parents, spouses, and communities because of deeds like these committed by men. Why not? Elders and ministers have always defended these characters saying “boys will be boys” but for girls, “life should be as good as being lobotomised and placed in a glass case“. Sasi was punished but even then, it didn’t stop him. He stuck with Murugan and was even given an ounce of friendship and humanity. That’s right. Remember what Donald Trump said about women, something so enraging that half the population of U.S.A are still protesting against his victory. His words which gave incentive for many boys to assault and harass girls saying “If the president can do it, why not me?”. Since a film is a popular medium followed and film stars are idolized, it is absolutely essential to put forward similar healthy contents. I can’t tell how many times I facepalmed when Sasi bragged about his actions and when he spoke dirty to women; in one of the scenes he asks a woman “why don’t you and your husband sleep together?“. It is not funny and when will Malayalam filmmakers understand that 50% population of Kerala include women and that they deserve better content? With dignity? Most of these filmmakers and stars are very vocal about rape cases like Jisha case, Soumya rape and murder case and Suryanelli case. Same stars say sentences like “nee verum pennanu” (you are just a woman) in a heroic manner. Remember the scene from ‘the truth’? Words which were echoed by young Mammootty fans? Many young women have committed suicide when they were violated by boys who took pictures of them bathing and taunted with this information. Thank god, Sasi did not have a camera. I just hoped and hoped that Sasi will be put in jail at the end of the film, but Murugan treated him like his best friend.
Ranger R.K, who said all those dirty things to Myna and who almost violated her (if it wasn’t for her guts to jump into a waterhole) simply gave a dry apology to Murugan saying that he understood why Murugan is very popular. He should be in jail. He exploited people using his position, cheated on his wife and mistreated an individual.
And, I don’t have to mention the sister-daughter dilemma and daughters being a man’s reason to look for sympathy. Daughter’s dowry is more important than her integrity. A racist joke is made, a dark looking boy is expected to be a tribesperson. And, why was the character Julie (Namitha) in this film? Bringing out another usual cliche about female lust where the woman shows off her big breasts in her bright colored sarees, revealing her tummy and exaggerated moves. Seemingly, they wanted to create a 3-hour film and add as many contents as they could, therefore, made an avial out of it.
The second half of the film lacked the kind of technical wonder noticed in the first half, except at the time when the Tiger attacked and killed a police officer who was led by a team of rangers. What followed is action after action, cliche after cliche. But then the film’s success has everything to do with the tremendous improvement in the technical side. Malayalam audience wants a change. A good film with better content can contribute to that.
Personally, Pulimurugan had great scope for a much better film if it stuck to symbolism and if Murugan was a vigilante who fights for justice than dedicating himself to killing tigers. Mohanlal’s charisma, the first tiger hunt sequences, the song picturization, Shaji Kumar’s cinematography and Gopi Sundar’s score added their share of gold.