What happens to an excellent subject matter, with a powerful and socially relevant topic underlining it, when it is stretched to 2 hours in order to make a feature film by adding fillers? You get a movie like Paavada. The theme of this film which spoke greatly about an existent illness that has affected several lives across Kerala; alcoholism. At the time of its release, there were hues and cries related to how this movie highlighted the message against alcoholism and about how a woman’s body and integrity is being misused by the entertainment industry for profit. At the same time, Prithviraj was at the peak of his career with several back to back hits and Paavada was like a sprinkle on it. This movie is a perfect example of everything that can go wrong while trying expand a 15 min plot to satisfy the youth audience with the essence of laughter and drama.
The theme is what attracted my interest to it, this is a film about 2 men who are addicted alcohol because of which they have tumultuous personal as well as professional lives. Prof. Babu Joseph, who is known by his labelled name “Paavada Babu”, is an alcoholic who is a heavy drinker despised by everyone, currently living with Pilla (Nedumudi Venu). He meets “Pambu” Joy (Prithviraj) in an alcohol de-addiction centre. Joy is married to a nurse named Sinimol (Miya George) who leaves him due to his excess drinking and suspecting nature. Joy and Babu bond well and escape from the rehab one fine night. Fate introduces another connection between them; Babu is the producer of the infamous adult film “Paavada” which featured Joy’s mother Cicily (Asha Sarath) who was betrayed and the result of this film’s release was barbarous for her.
The film began with a series of abhorrent slapstick and unnecessary sequences which gave this film several plot-holes. It was so reprehensible that I was tempted to fast forward in order to come to the point of this film, that is to make sure if there’s any scenario that actually deals with anti-alcoholism. The second half turned out to be over-dramatic with many factual errors and overdone structures. I liked the concept behind the narrator at a toddy shop but at times it was overdone; the initial narration gave an idea about the coming slapstick comedy sequences, at the same time, it led to the confusion as this movie is perceived more like “pro” rather than “anti” drinking, unless it included a dialogue from a priest who compared excess consumption of liquor with Satan’s urine. When you look at the cast, the quality is understood. Prithviraj is not good enough to handle the comical aspect, like the scenes where he expresses his mindless love for Sinimol and the stilted moments where he faked tears to get sympathy from his friends. I *facepalmed* the whole time. Not that Prithviraj’s comic performances are substandard, he’s done appreciable work in Ananthabhadram (2005) and Classmates (2006). His depiction of drunkenness and emotional scenes in the second half of the film are downright. The sudden personality shift in his character resulted in an inconvenient jerk as far as the flow of the story is concerned. This is more due to the bad execution. Anoop Menon, on the other hand, did a fine job as Paavada Babu. Unlike Prithviraj’s portrayal, Anoop created a better persona whose personality leads to aversion initially, but then we sympathize after knowing about his difficulties. Nedumudi Venu is the best character from this movie until he showed his desire to have a drink. This is one of the aspect where the movie, about anti-alcoholism, went wrong. Pilla is the only person who is trying to keep things together in Babu’s life, but even he affected by the devil’s game.
Factual error is the depiction of the events taking place in de-addiction center. The lead doctor is shown to taunt the addicts by pressing them on bed and what’s even worse is when he gave them sedatives intravenously. Rehabilitation process is done with utmost care, yet here, patients are treated like mentally ill. Miya George is in the list of too good looking actresses who can’t act, so I predicted that she might be just a ruse in this film. I was wrong, well almost. In spite of having less role, Miya played a character with an interesting turn. She is the one who brought in the major turnout as far as the story is concerned by playing the major role in Joy’s decision to give up drinking and to have a normal and more responsible life. Like a typical heroine, she disappears halfway through the film, but her comeback at the end and her involvement in bringing resolution to Joy’s life was done effectively. Asha Sarath looked out of character initially, but she delivered a heart-breaking performance as Cicily. The movie is about how Joy, Babu and Gunasekharan (Maniyanpillai Raju) is fighting against re-release of Paavada, which is to be made in 3D. A positive streak is the fact that the explicit parts in the ‘A’ movie was not shown, instead it was limited to grand looks of Cicily’s. We see how Joy empathize with motherhood and difficulties she goes through to raise children. He spares a witness of his troubles for the sake of protecting her dignity. We witness him saying a long monologue about protecting women’s dignity, towards the end of the film and goes on to teach a man, who tries to violate it, a lesson by kicking him in his groins. Thus our hero is born but, is short-lived. Exactly 5 minutes later, the same hero harasses his wife and impregnates her after ranting against the fact that she left him earlier (which is clearly justified) and boasts about his manhood. So much for our Malayalam heroes, who will do anything socially pertinent but charity is never shown at home. He is a “man” only as long as he ensures that his wife stays within her “limits” and be at a “woman’s place”. Malayalam filmmakers apparently never understand what consent is with one condescending hero after the other.
Also, the scenes shown in high court are factually wrong, but if it is done for the sake of dramatism then it matters less. A major witness, who is shown a good character, is introduced to the court after assaulting him to speak the truth. It would have been better if he volunteered to speak up, otherwise there is scope for a counter-defense. Kalabhavan Shajon was not convincing as the villain, what is driving force behind his sadistic nature that made him blind and deaf to a mother’s pain and pleas? His character establishment was not enough. Siddique delivered a fantastic performance during the time he had on screen. Gopi Sundar, who is otherwise known for his good imagination, only composed noisy music at unnecessary instances in this movie. The songs were odious, but it does suit the lifestyle of the alcoholics with no seriousness in their lives. Cinematography worked with natural coloring and proper lighting. It captured the emotions by the second half of the film. Editing and sound is good enough but it is high Malayalam filmmakers have a lot to explore in terms of art and technicalities.
Paavada is cringe worthy but entertaining. It can be enjoyed once and with people who enjoy slapstick comedy, for eg: college-going young audience. In-spite of the relevance, it is less likely that the audience especially in youth population will comprehend the aspect about Kerala’s submergence in liquor drinking culture.