Ad filmmaker VA Shrikumar promised the Kerala audience a “mass” film that might even qualify for the Oscars. It was marketed by Shrikumar for a year before it’s release in 2018. Before the release of this film, it was in the news for breaking records in pre-release booking sales. After the gigantic success of Pulimurugan and Mohanlal’s status as an actor who can’t be replaced, Odiyan was supposed to follow that path. VA Shrikumar described Odiyan as th child of ‘Devasuram’ and ‘Narasimham’.
What happened afterwards was even funnier. Facebook live videos of diehard Mohanlal fans swearing at the director for making a mediocre film with their icon went viral. There was this one video where a group of facepalming men sat together. A brother and sister, “eloped” from their house in the morning to watch the early show of the film and they went back home expressing their disappointment via social media. The comment section Odiyan’s official page and VA Shrikumar’s profile witnessed ‘firecrackers’ from the fans. They felt let down after being promised of something special like Telugu industry’s Baahubali.
That being said, director Shrikumar did not back down. He appeared in several channels and debates defending his work. He said over and over that he is open to criticisms but he does not believe the reviews.
“People are making judgements before Mohanlal’s introduction scene. I feel like I am being attacked.” said Shrikumar in an interview.
He went to make his theories like he is being targeted unnecessarily. He said that the Malayali audience is narrow-minded. And, he didn’t even spare lead actress Manju Warrier of the old school sexist cliche and blamed her “marketing value” for the film’s failure. Which is convenient if analyzed from that angle. None of the reviews said anything that bad about Manju. It was marketed with Mohanlal in the center. Yet, the film’s failure is blamed on the lead actress. Rima Kallingal accentuated that in her Facebook post.
The film went to become a hit at the box office though the critics were not too kind. As someone who mentored Manju Warrier after her comeback, Shrikumar said that he has been at the receiving end of Dileep fans and paid PR. He called out Manju for not defending the film aggressively since he gave her another opportunity.
Where this gentleman threw his (harsh) criticisms at Shrikumar and he listened to it silently. I felt sorry for him. I thought, maybe the Malayali audience and critics are taking things too far. The film got all the publicity it needed from the negativity but why *this* negative. The film just didn’t live up to the hype that’s all. This was also the time when I didn’t go to theaters much to watch films and waited for its release on DVD or Hotstar.
One day, I was feeling sick but despite that, I went to watch this movie with my dad.
Well… I just couldn’t blame the critics or the pissed off fans. This movie is neither innovative nor ‘mass’. It just a stack of cliches sitting on top of a strong concept backed by the hype.
Odiyan is a strong concept based on an urban legend. Shapeshifters were believed to have existed in Palakkad. This is described in the title sequence narrated by Mammootty. Well, this concept could have been explored but then they had to put all the things that we have seen a million times before.
The film is about Manikyan (Mohanlal) is the last Odiyan of Palakkad. He depends on the dark. He scares people with his shapeshifting abilities. No one can match his skills. He falls in love with Prabha (Manju Warrier), his childhood friend who is also lusted by his counterpart Ravunni, who is a rich aristocrat. Ravunni lusts after both Prabha and her sister. Now the past and present events of the film are narrated parallelly.
At the beginning, especially after the scene where Manikyan saves a woman from a drowning, the film showed ample buildup. Nope…
The film has all the cliches: a triangle love story, a friend zoned hero, a bloodthirsty (obvious) villain who frames the hero, a heroine who refuses to believe the hero’s pleas, men who ‘crazy’ things for love, and an end fight sequence that distorts all the rules of the nature. However, I am thankful that the film spared Prabha of the old school ‘damsel in distress’ cliche. We see her take a stand for herself twice. We see the fire in her eyes when approached by Ravunni. But then, it dies down with the fire that didn’t harm Manikyan in the climax fight scene.
The fundamental problem with the film apart from the cliches is the predictability.
We know from the very beginning who is behind the wrongdoings. We know why he did it. We know how he manipulated others into believing him. We will also know that Prabha will eventually come to terms and support Manikyan. We will end up booing when a ‘cute’ song featuring Manikyan and Prabha comes on-screen after they reconcile. And we will know how the movie is going to end and what it will mean for Manikyan and Prabha.
As it appears, VA Shrikumar did not utilise Mohanlal as a talent, instead he exploited his stardom following the success of ‘Pulimurugan’. Since the role was played by Mohanlal, we can expect minimum guarantee. Where ever he is just walking around and has no dialogues, Mohanlal gives out the compelling vibes. When he is calm, when he is angry. But the dialogues were too mediocre for him to be able to save the day. Some of the emotional scenes were too dramatic and, again, cliched. We saw Manikyan as this badass guy who intimidates people and who sees people. Yet he chose to leave after being misunderstood. didn’t he consider staying back to investigate the crimes he was being framed for? And the scene where he begs Prabha to believe him. I facepalmed several times as it doesn’t sync with the ‘mass’ the director wants us to identify with. And he simply listens to Prabha’s taunts which is a scenario witnessed is dramatic TV serials.
Apart from that the film touches things will get them blacklisted if the film was released in Hollywood. Forget about the Oscars…
Prakash’s skin is painted with grease to look darker. That’s right. In order to add insult to the injury that has been inflicted on people with dark skin, they keep highlighting Ravunnni’s dark skin to go with his evil nature.
“Not just your skin, even your mind is dark,” is one of the insults thrown at him by Prabha. Now, we know how angering it is when the hero of a film utter sexism and glorify misogyny. What makes Prabha’s racial taunts any different? She is the heroine of the film and is rejecting the man on the basis of his skin even though it is not her alpha argument. Ravunni is made to be extra dark to depict it as one of the reasons why Prabha rejected him. Or that lascivious man, in general, is dark-skinned.
India is a brown nation yet we can’t stop our obsession with fairness.
Finally to the one line that broke the internet following the film’s release. Both Mohanlal and Manju Warrier are aware of the same. Manikyan comes back to Prabha and vows to protect her and her sister. He even persuades her to walk with her head high and to fight back. The dialogue is backed by dramatic music and anticipation. After wards, Prabha says, “kurachu kanji edukatte Manikya?” (Shall I serve rice soup?). Trust me when I say that I had intense stomach ache while watching the film and I was struggling not to laugh out loud. Prabha shows up in the next scene with ‘Kanji’.
So many memes came out and it is one of the things I was asked to watch out for. Who knows, maybe people abandoned pizza and biriyani and opted for kanji.
So, Is Odiyan worth the time? I wasted my preciosu time and health. I felt ‘cheated’ because of the way the movie was marketed. Just before going for the film, I fought with several negative crtiques in my family saying that a movie takes a lot of time and energy to be made and that it should be appreciated.
That’s what I could say about Odiyan. Shrikumar tried to make a memorable product but it didn’t work. Maybe the writers should let go of the cliches and predictability.