Monday, August 31, 2009

Bhramaram - A Review

Finally, Blessy’s Bhramaram hit the shores of Mumbai on Friday and many Malayalees (Lalettan fans and otherwise) thronged to watch the movie, hoping to watch Lal recreate his magic of yesteryears. Lal shines but Blessy stumbles as the movie which could have been a classic remains a film, brilliant in parts but lost in many others. Is the legacy of Padmarajan and Bharathan making it difficult for Blessy to progress beyond his debut?

Bhramaram tells the story of a stranger who makes a sudden appearance in Unni’s house, amidst the Coimbatore blasts, claiming to be a long lost classmate. Unni, a successful stockbroker, is unable to remember Jose (as the stranger calls himself) but since Jose knows many of the events of the past, he trusts him.

The purpose of Jose's visit (who is later revealed to be Sivankutty, his old classmate wrongly implicated in a murder by Unni and his friend, in their teens) is shrouded in mystery. He refuses any kind of help and only wishes to talk about something important in isolation. Jose's eerie behavior disturbs the composure of Unni's wife and disturbs his professional life. And, the revelation of Jose's real identity and purpose of his sudden appearance creates further tremors.

The movie starts on a slow note and brings along a small ensemble of characters who do not add any value to the plot. The loud and garishness of Unni’s caricatured neighbour and his family have a jarring and irritating feel in the movie. Every once a while, the movie catches steam, it fires, only to halt again and go again in this haphazard journey till it reaches the climax which, despite Lal’s efforts, just does not register.

Lal’s story as it spirals to an uneven climax is on the face and carries too much melodrama; the tragedy which is communicated brilliantly through Lal is lost in the writing. It needed to be less verbose and more compact but settles down for an unevenness which does not suit the genre that it tries to find itself in. Technically, also other than the camerawork, it remains amateurish – witness the very obvious special effects on display when the glass breaks during the hilly rides and the sight of the hills from far below.

The movie could possibly do with a good half an hour of editing. I’d suggest hive off Unni’s neighbours, the stunt scene, trim down the flashback and dwell more on the trio and work at the fear element. With an excellent background in Munnar and its nearby areas, I’d like to believe that the fear factor could have been easy to be drawn into.

The biggest drawback is probably the script, whose credit goes to Blessy himself. It moves just as uncertainly as their travel in the high ranges and Lal’s finicky behaviour. The flashback story is fairly weak - especially, the reaction of his daughter (an irritating kid by cinema standards, I must say), whose only role seemed to be to squeeze tears from the audience.

When directors try to spoon feed the audience or try to use fairly obvious symbols, the attempts fall flat. Witness the first scene which shows Lal searching for Unni as he moves around in an auto and the next scene shows the blasts with a news reader announcing that they were triggered by an unclaimed bag in an auto and sounding a caution to be careful of strangers -too much of an obvious inference. The zooming in of the kitchen knives when he opens the cupboard and the pressure cooker noise are clichéd devices and one wonders at the naivety of the script in creating such scenes.

Lal is, fortunately, in his zone here and brings to life a character with an almost split personality like behaviour. His disorderly whimsical behaviour is disturbing and creates a sense of uneasiness. He carries an almost psychotic like tendency - the character is raw and brusque in one moment and almost childlike in another - which makes it difficult for us to judge his character. He clearly is the movie’s biggest strength and ensures that he rises above the pitfalls in the script.

Malayalam cinema has good bench strength when it comes to supporting characters and has often provided memorable cameos by the supporting cast; but, Blessy fails to create any such character. While Suresh Menon is adequate, Muralikrishnan (Bharat Gopi’s son) is underutilized (his character needed more meat). You leave the theatre and the rest of the cast remains in oblivion, without any impact.

This movie could very easily have originated in the director’s mind, after seeing Bharathan-MTs classic Thazhvaram (undoubtedly, among the best of Malayalam cinema in its genre and an ode to Western Classics) but the inspiration seems to have been lost somewhere, in the midst of all the rumbling and mumbling of the travel that the characters undertake through the hills. While Thazhvaram was taut, tense and thrilling, Bhramaram is loose, jerky and bumbling in its implementation. For a so-called Road Thriller, I ask where is the uneasiness and tension here?

The songs are good and hummable and while they do not have any impact, they do not disturb the flow. Watching Bhramaram and Calcutta News has acted as a reality check – Blessy may be inspired by Padmarajan and Bharathan but there’s a clearly a long way to go. The Masters are way ahead and the disciple is clearly in wilderness, trying to find his way but unsure of the path to be taken. Mind you, the movie by itself is definitely worth watching but with Blessy at the helm, the expectations are definitely much higher and that is what lets it down the most.

The film stays in our mind and provides a great relief after seeing Lal doing stupid films like SAJ and many others that have forced many of his fans to abandon him. However, if you want to watch a thriller this year, I’d still suggest trying Ranjith Shankar’s Passenger, which makes a quiet impact, without any superstar fireworks.


  1. this review is total verbose and nothing else...!! I wish you had some sense of what real cinema is..!! good writing skills though!

  2. A great review..As u mentioned Thazhvaram seems to be the inspiration,but I think Blessy wanted to make this a commercial success,that is why excessive melodrama and all those obvious giveaways..More screen space should have been given to Murali Gopy's character..