The Malayalam film is Dileep’s reunion with filmmaker Raffi and it leans on familiar yet archaic tropes
Last Updated: 12.54 AM, Jul 30, 2023
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Story: Sathyanathan (Dileep) is an ordinary man whose innocence and blunt honesty often land him in difficult situations. Once such a situation escalates and spirals out of control when the authorities mistakenly charge him for making threats against the Indian President’s life and imprison him.
Review: Malayalam actor Dileep has endured a gruelling period in recent years as he continues to struggle to draw audiences to theatres. And if one were to pinpoint why the once bankable star is in a rut, it would be the fact that the projects he picks often feature outdated themes and tropes in an industry which has long since moved on from them. But ‘the elephant in the room’ must be addressed, and it is his alleged involvement in the sexual assault case from a few years ago. The age-old debate of separating the art from the artist is applicable in this situation. However, considering the ‘art’ in question is poorly executed, the debate itself becomes a moot point.
The opening act of the film promises that it can deliver a compelling narrative, straddled with a healthy dose of social commentary. This promise, however, soon dissipates and even the comedy falls flat. The narrative quickly broadens its scope by the second act, but it requires a suspension of disbelief. It is not because the film features over-the-top set pieces or larger-than-life characters, but because of the sudden departure from the film's initial tone. To compound its problems, these scenes are somehow excruciatingly dull and predictable.
The film’s plot is set against the backdrop of Sathyanathan’s interfaith marriage to Susan. As one would expect, it plays a relatively vital part in shaping the narrative. Of course, one would have to look past the obvious age gap between the onscreen couple, as the actress could easily be mistaken for the lead star’s daughter. This shouldn’t ideally affect the story, but considering it is never addressed over the course of the film, one can only assume that the filmmakers have intended the characters to be much closer in age than the actors portraying them.
The biggest drawbacks are the film’s plot holes and the unintentional ironies that the story accumulates over the course of the film. Its attempt at social commentary is half-baked and its message is contradicting. In fact, the film also attempts to draw parallels between its protagonist and its lead star by projecting the latter as ‘misunderstood’ just like his onscreen counterpart. Whether it is a deliberate plot device designed to cleanse the actor’s fractured reputation is only a conjecture at this point.
Regardless of one’s opinion of Dileep, his calibre as an actor is undeniable. He slips into the role of Sathyanathan effortlessly, albeit with familiar trappings of some of his popular characters from the past. In fact, the film’s only noticeable strength is the performance of its cast. Even actors such as Siddique, Vijayaraghavan, and Ramesh Pisharody, who essay the roles of the supporting characters, deliver convincing performances. But the film’s standout performance is from Joju George. The actor showcases why he is simply a cut above the rest of his fellow cast members with a riveting turn as the prisoner named Balan. If there is one gripe one can point a finger at regarding the performances is Anupam Kher’s portrayal of the fictional Indian President. In one of the final scenes, Kher’s character repeatedly mispronounces Kerala as ‘Keral’ – which is inexcusable on multiple levels.
Verdict: Voice of Sathyanathan is akin to a throwback film from a bygone era – one that the Malayalam film industry has rightfully moved on from. The film leans on familiar yet archaic tropes, which renders the proceedings predictable and dull. Not even the excellent performances of its cast are able to elevate the film out of its mediocrity.