Wow! I went expecting just excellent cinematography, but came back with a complete movie experience. Santhosh Sivan's Urumi, true to its name, pierces the mind, drawing out an exalted, euphoric state. I came out of the theatre with a thickened throat and stinging eyes, but as Sachin said recently, those were happy tears, so I wasn't ashamed to shed them.
The story is nothing new - in a nutshell, it is the brave and desperate one-man stand against a strong foreign enemy who is aided and abetted by the greedy, selfish and shortsighted among the indigenous people. Here, the villain is the celebrated mariner Vasco da Gama, the lucre is pepper, the black gold of yore and the hero is Kelu Nayanar, the son of erstwhile chief commander of the Chirakkal army, who was murdered by Vasco the second time he came to Malabar.
I will leave the twists and turns of the plot and its predictable ending to future viewers, and wax lyrical about what I loved in the movie. Shankar Ramakrishnan has done wonders with the dialogue and matches M.T. at his best in movies like Pazhassi Raja and Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. The Chirakkal thampuran's description of his good-for-nothing son as "a foul word that I once forgot to utter" is just one example. Yes, I habitually think and write in English, but the movie made me fall in love with my mother tongue once again. Very few writers have the gift to do that and I am extremely glad that such writers still exist who are able wring poetry from our exhausted little language that has been stuffed up with anglicisms. I know no one speaks like that any more, but it is wonderful to have such specimens served up to the current public from time to time.
The casting is superb. Prithviraj has very little to do in terms of acting as Kelu Nayanar except end various lives and smoulder with Genelia who does the role of Arakkal Ayisha. The Krishna Das character has more to do than Kelu. Genelia has taken pains with Kalarippayattu lessons and is a revelation in the movie. She is never out of character even in the romantic scenes, always the wary lioness, even when she peeks out at her lover and is proud even in her grief. How a person with such puny arms could raise and strike with the heavy iron weapons of yore is the only question that pops up in one's mind, but Genelia and the clever cinematography make up for that. Nithya Menon lives up to the promise she gave in the "Happy Journey" segment of Kerala Cafe. She lives as the lovably naughty yet vulnerable Chirakkal Bala. Several actors whose names I don't even know have done wonders with their roles - the effeminate Bhanu and the Chirakkal thampuran who breaks free of the shackles of his opium-feeding minister are two of them. Jagathy again excels in his role of the scheming minister. Arya does well as the tribal oracle and the first Kothuval and it was a brilliant stroke to have Prithvi dub for him in the role of the Kothuval. But the one who stands out in all the cast is Prabhu Deva as the irrepressible Vavvali who is comedian, brave hero and loyal friend all in one and grabs all the attention from the word "go". Both the character and the actor deserve all the credit for making all the scheming and gore from being unbearable.
All in all, it's not a feel-good movie in the usual sense of the term, but it does make you feel choked up and proud, kind of like when the Men in Blue lifted up a Cup recently.
And to end the day, in the evening, I read an article in the Sunday edition of Malayala Manorama titled "Tipuvinte Aarcha" which cites new findings that prove that Unniarcha of the fabled Vadakkan Paattu who was supposed to have been killed in the battle with the forces of Tipu Sultan was actually captured alive and made his bride. But even there, she held her own and once the Sultan was overthrown, her family was accepted graciously into the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore! Aha, I think that is fit for another movie - are you listening, Santhosh Sivan and Prithviraj???? I'm certainly looking forward to when the findings are published. I have been feeling disgruntled ever since MT drew Unniarcha in dark shades in Oru Vadakkan Veera Gatha. I surely hope to see her vindicated and reinstated.