Some years ago there was unprecedented hype for a Hindi Film Called Mangal Pandey-The Rising. The movie was touted to be the biggest in Indian History at that point of time. With Prince Charles giving muhurat shoot and 4 years in making, the film opened in record number of screens, the expectation was sky high with perfectionist Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Director Ketan Mehta who had previously directed movies like Mirch Masala.
Other reason was that it was about Mangal Pandey, supposedly India’s first freedom fighter, which our history textbook mentioned in half a para and being a one mark question for exams.But alas after the movie came out all I remembered was a wet Rani in Holi song, and Mangal marrying a prostitute , not only was the movie historically not very accurate but most of the people thought the half para in the History Text Book had more info on Mangal Pandey than the 3 hours movie.
Does Urumi commit the same mistake? Yes it does, that too in a big way.
March has been an important month for Malayalam Cinema this year with multi-starrer Christian Brothers releasing, followed by Mammoty’s August 15th. While the former had some luck at B.O, the latter was Mammoty’s way of repaying Aroma Mani and Shaji Kailas as the trio’s last venture Drona 2010 flopped. (All films with title Drona have flopped, be it in Telugu, Malayalam or Hindi). Someone told me after watching it that I wish Drona would not have happened in the first place. The last week of March saw the release of Urumi, which had Prithviraj in the lead & it had been in news for long time.
Period Malayalam Films, made by Navodaya Films were at one time craze among Malaylees, but as time changed, this formula was overlooked .In recent times Pazhassi Raja was in news, as it was a historical film made on budget of 25 crores, the biggest Malayalam Film till date with Hariharan and M.T. Vasudevan helming the story this was also one of the best films in recent Malayalam Film History.
Urumi got my attention, with its tagline” the boy who wanted to Kill Vasco Da Gama”. Being from Kerala, but not read anything about history of Kerala, I am always curious to watch anything historical related to Kerala and more so to do with Royal families of Kerala.
Urumi is a weapon used in martial art of Kerala; I guess it is Santosh Sivan’s favourite weapon as he made even Emperor Asoka also use it in Kalinga war ( Asoka ).
As I am not well versed with Kerala history I do not know how much of the movie is fact and how much fiction, the central character played by Prithviraj, is Fictional, as far as I know from interviews.
The movie begins with voiceover by K.P.A.C Lalitha, describing Vasco’s first visit to Kerala. The movie then shift forwards to Goa, where two Youngsters Prithvi and Prabhu deva are harassed by financial loan sharks, like in any Indian Movie the youngsters drink & make merry and do not have clue any about India and its History.
Prithvi learns that he has an ancestral property in Kerala, which an MNC mining company is interested to buy. Mining Companies are the new villains in Malayalam Films, and they have replaced Mumbai Underworld.
Prithvi along with Prabhu lands up in Kerala, there he meets Vidya Balan, who runs a school for Tribal children in his place.There he finds out he has to take the signature of a mentally unstable girl in order to sell of his property, or wait till the lease is over.
Here Prithvi comes to know about his lineage, a period which takes place between Vasco Da Gama’s second and third visit to Kerala.
Enter Chirakkal Kothuwal(Arya) a Commander who is captured and killed by Vasco when he enters Vasco’s Ship to rescue the hostages,leaving behind his son Cherakkal Kelu(Prithviraj) who swears for revenge like 70’s Bollywood movie. Then we see some shots of him practicing with Urumi, in lush locales of Kerala, oops Malshej Ghat and Kundapur it seems. He is assisted in his mission by his childhood Muslim friend Vavvali (Prabhu Deva) and I was thinking days of loyal Muslim friend role were not written anymore
By this time you know Kelu wants to seek revenge, but if you ask him what his action plan I do not have any clue. It seems he is waiting for Vasco to arrive to Kerala, to add to confusion in one scene he says he is waiting for 20 years, in another for 22 years. So what are they doing in between waiting? chasing rabbits, dancing with Tabu in item number (pity that actor of such calibre is wasted in such a way) and rescuing a princess Chirakkal Bala (Nithya Menon) which leads them to Chirakal Thamburan (Amol Gupte), who promises to help them in their mission, as he does want to be acquiescent to the foreigners. But Kelu soon learns that advisor to King Chenicherry Kurup has his loyalty not towards Thamburan but towards Vasco.
Rest of story follows how Kelu forms a group of people to attack Vasco and his forces, with Arrakal Ayesha helping him and both falling in love eventually.
Does Urumi teach anything about history of Kerala, which we have not read, in one word the answer is NO.In fact it is filled with historical inaccuracies.
In a period drama, first thing you get right is Customs, but here they get it all wrong, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urumi_(film). Now coming to acting, PrithviRaj is a competent actor, but is he the best after two big M’s of Malayalam Film industry? No, he has still a long way to go, adding muscles alone does not bring emotions nor characterization to the role. He fails to connect with audience big time.Prabhu Deva has much more screen space and the better lines compared to Prithvi. I guess it was market compulsions as they had to release it in Tamil and Telugu to. Nithya Menon as Princess Bala, is ok and displays her assets and uses it to full potential in Chimi Chimi Song. I guess she was taken on this aptness only because when we are introduced to her she is shown as a fiery princess who can run the kingdom after her father’s death instead of the Prince Bhanu Vikraman. But as story progress, she just romances Prabhu and I was wondering why she does not participate in fight against Portuguese .Genelia as Ayesha is just average. Amol Gupte and Jagathy Sreekumar both steal the show, in fact the scenes between the two are soul of the movie. Vidya Balan dubs her own voice, but the lip-sync is so bad, in fact the lip sync is bad for all the actors, Vidya has one scene and in the other she is showing her cleavage and ass, may be as dry run for her upcoming Dirty Picture.
Sreekar Prasad, seems to have forgotten his editorial scissors at home for this one I guess. At 170 minutes this movie goes on and on,for no purpose. This can be trimmed to half of its length.Deepak Dev as music director brings life to this otherwise dull movie, even though one song Arro reminded me of Roshni se from Santosh Sivan’s Asoka.As director Santosh Sivan is routed by the cinematographer in him, the movie has some stunning visuals ,one of them is Genelia and Prithvi talking in a waterfall.The pity is that even though Cinema is visual medium, end of the day it should have story which should touch your emotional chords.If I want to see great locales I can watch Discovery Channel or National Geographic.
I hope Malayalam Cinema regains its lost glory, in nutshell Urumi is all style over substance. For me Urumi is Mangal Pandey of Malayalam Cinema, all I remembered after watching this is Nita’s ass and Vidya’s cleavage.
P.S.-Overheard in Theatre, this movie could have been just 90 minutes if all those slow motions were removed.