Chithram review: Looking Back At The Cult Phenomenon

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One of the most celebrated cult classics directed by the master of comedy films Priyadarshan with his best team of actors. Chitram is a “chalachithram” that’s imprinted in the long history of Malayalam cinema. The movie represented the style and structure of a typical ‘80s film where the beginning is hilarious with dialogue oriented jocularity and slapstick comedy with a jaw dropping theme. But the ending is so disturbing that is leaves a spot in your heart. After 28 years, this movie is still well received by people from different generations. Chithram is used as a case study by filmmakers who deal with hilarity and mixture of different genres.  It is literally impossible to ignore a film directed by Priyadarshan due to the fact that the superstar director contributed a lot to the Malayalam’s top grossing films. That being said, it is also difficult to find out the original idea although no other imagination can close to Mr Priyadarshan’s ability to make people laugh with with slapstick comedy or dry sense of humor. Is this movie that worthy? Does it deserve the cult status?

The movie begins with a creative sequence where a lawyer Kaimal (Nedumudi Venu), who is lazy beyond words as a long queue of time pieces couldn’t wake him up. Kalyani (Ranjini) has an adorable relationship with Kaimal as he is major contributor to every step in her life. Kalyani is determined to marry her boyfriend but he dumps her at the altar after knowing that she does not inherit from her father; as she is marrying against his wishes. Her father Ramachandra Menon (Poornam Viswanathan), an NRI living in America, comes back to spend time with his daughter and son-in-law. Menon is immensely rich and he owns an estate near a tribal community where he is the chief. He is ill and is revealed that it is going to be his last vacation due to his desire to live and die in U.S.A; therefore Kalyani and Kaimal decide to make his vacation as happy as possible and hide the fact that her boyfriend dumped her. So, Kaimal hires a man named Vishnu (Mohanlal) who is seemingly desperate for money, to act as Kalyani’s husband until Menon’s departure to U.S. Unwillingly, both Vishnu and Kalyani try their best to act the best marriage before Menon, while caretaker of the estate Bhaskar (Sreenivasan) suspects the authenticity. Things become complicated when a mysterious man (M.G Soman) comes into the scenario and the movie takes a turn there.

Priyadarshan is famous for all the unbelievable scenarios he present on-screen and Chithram is one of them. Chithram can be classified under the satire comedies with an enthralling ending and is considered as one of the best in Malayalam cinema. The success of this movie strengthened Mohanlal as well as Priyadarshan’s career and opened gates to possible stardom for Ranjini, however she wasn’t that great of an actress. Then again, the plot of the movie cannot be accepted completely, because why would a person’s only daughter be disinherited? And, judging by the intensity of the Indian culture why would someone hire a total stranger to act as a woman’s husband? Won’t he try to molest her or rob her? How bad can it be compared to telling the brutal truth about Kalyani’s fiance to her father?

Overall direction is good. The establishment of each characters are on point; Kaimal’s laziness, Menon gentlemanly behavior, Vishnu’s initial eccentricity (pretending to take picture) which is a clue as to his real profession (freelance photographer). The hilly region with superstitious tribe is shot at par with Malayalam films of that era and with the available technology with include less camera angles, movement and editing techniques, Priyadarshan created memorable visuals where sequence is captured as per the audience’s perception. And the best part is the combination scenes of Mohanlal and Nedumudi Venu. Notably the scenes; where Vishnu threatens to leave when Kaimal irritates him by refusing to give him money, the “achaarams” where Kalyani and Vishnu reluctantly participates and the cult scene where Kalyani first claps, after listening to Vishnu’s classical singing, then she changes into dusting and Vishnu who was grinning pouts his lips, embarrassed. The fact that this movie is well remembered for the comedy and touching sequences is what makes it a success. The development of Vishnu and Kalyani’s romance overtime is also well scripted to have the appeal at the climax sequence, the song “swaminatha…”.

The best part about the movie is the story related to Vishnu’s past and about how a small misunderstanding lead to an shattering result. Morality, kindness and loyalty by Vishnu is highlighted there. Mohanlal makes this movie what it is. He is a versatile actor who simply blend into the character he plays; his comedy and emotional scenes are of top class. Chithram’s Vishnu will always be remembered. Nedumudi Venu added his cents with his easy acting. The presence of two great actors in a way made Ranjani look lively but then at times she looked off character. The ending would have been a lot better if she could deliver her best but it was limited to an awestruck look. Sukumari maintained her standard presence but Sreenivasan was annoying as his presence at times affected the flow of the scene. Vishnu is shown to be nice to Bhargavan after everything he’s done to put the family in jeopardy, that part was hard to accept especially since Bahrgavan’s intentions were not visible. The songs are stupendous, my personal favorite being “paadam pootha kaalam” and the theme music for comic scenes are on point.

So, for the effort Priyadarshan took to capture the visuals and for presenting a film that is well received by the audience of many generations, it does deserve the cult status. And, Mohanlal’s performance is worth it. If you haven’t seen Chithram, check it out because even if there are flaws, this movie will also make you think in a way about family and morality.

4/5

Featured image: youtube.com

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