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Pookkaalam review: Ganesh Raj’s sophomore directorial soars on the back of a stirring second half

The greatest highlight in Vijayaraghavan and KPAC Leela's Pookkaalam is how it also serves as a coming-of-age film with the unlikeliest of protagonists for such a genre


Last Updated: 05.23 PM, Apr 08, 2023


Story: After spending 80 years together, Ittoop discovers a love letter that was sent to wife Kochuthressia almost 50 years ago. While his children and grandchildren dismiss this, Ittoop decides to seek a divorce. The events become the talk of the town and also has an impact on the wedding of his grandchild Elsy, who decides to find out the truth about what happened and why.

Review: It’s not often that a filmmaker’s two movies focus on protagonists of two different age spectrums and yet details their lives with so much care. Director Ganesh Raj, who made his debut with the campus romcom Aanandam, chooses to narrate a story about two nonagenarians, who have been married to each other for over 80 years, through the movie Pookkaalam. The greatest highlight in the film, which is also scripted by the director, is how it also serves as a coming-of-age film with the unlikeliest of protagonists for such a genre.

KPAC Leela and Vijayaraghavan in a still from Pookkaalam
KPAC Leela and Vijayaraghavan in a still from Pookkaalam

The film’s thread is unique. It revolves around Ittoop (Vijayaraghavan), who is approaching 100 years of age, alleging that his wife Kochuthressia (KPAC Leela) had an affair five decades ago and seeks for divorce. All this after finding a love letter and never really asking her about the truth. The latter trait of his personality has a far-reaching impact on the arc of the story and it’s also where Ganesh, as a storyteller, succeeds in showing that people – no matter how rigid in their beliefs or how old they are – can change, for the better and for the ones they love.

Pookkaalam, in essence, is about that change. The filmmaker has structured the movie that way too, to show the different phases of life leading to the (eternal) ‘spring’ (of youth). He doesn’t spoon-feed the relationships but it all comes together through snippets from Ittoop and Kochuthressia’s youthful days along with what their children and grandchildren discover after the former takes the unpopular route of approaching the court.

A still from Pookkaalam
A still from Pookkaalam

The first half, however, digresses a bit for the sake of entertainment, with characters of Basil Joseph, Vineeth Sreenivasan and Johny Antony being added to the fold as part of the legal drama. While they provide the laughs, you do wish that the filmmaker had instead spent more time on fleshing out its protagonists. This is because when Ganesh does shine light entirely on the family, the film assumes a maturity it didn’t previously. The powerful second half, aided by some stirring and poignant sequences, elevates the film while also ensuring it connects to the audience by showing the power of love, loss and the mistake of taking what one has for granted.

Vijayaraghavan as Ittoop is phenomenal, portraying the body language of a man in his twilight years. The make-up department too deserves special mention. The scenes of Ittoop’s obdurate mindset giving way and the realisation dawning on him – at the court as well as the final chapter – are sure to move anyone. KPAC Leela retains a sense of warmth about her character throughout the film, which becomes radiant, again in the final chapter, when she tells her daughters that she was happy to see everyone laughing again.

Basil Joseph and Johny Antony in a still from Pookkaalam
Basil Joseph and Johny Antony in a still from Pookkaalam

Annu Antony, Arun Kurian, Abu Salim, Jagadish, Suhasini Maniratnam and the rest of the cast play their parts well in the feel-good film, which has a youthful flavour sprinkled throughout – drawing parallels to the kind of love Ittoop and Kochuthressia had over the years. In a way, this is also why the final revelation works so well.

Anend C Chandran’s cinematography adds to this sprightly vibe. Though there were so many moments that could have been made livelier with the accompaniment of music, Ganesh and composer Sachin Warrier keep it controlled till the final chapter, to ‘spring’ all the goodness together.


Verdict: Though Ganesh Raj’s sophomore directorial Pookkaalam takes its time to get going, once it finds its footing in the second half, it soars and moves you – thanks to some brilliant performances and poignant moments.


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