Sunday, March 30, 2008
Panchagni: A classic
Panchagni written by M T Vasudevan Nair and directed by Hariharan is the story of a strong willed woman who gets involved in extremist activities. It is more than 2 decades old but stirs the passion in you even if you watch it now! That is the reason many others along with me consider Panchagni a classic! Indira (Geetha) is serving life imprisonment for murdering a rich, wily landlord. Her mother, a freedom fighter in her hey days (Lakshmi Krishnamoorthy) is bed ridden and Indira is granted a week long parole to go and visit her ailing mother. However, she is not a welcome visitor in her house, especially for her younger brother, Raghu (Meghanathan) who is unable to find a decent employment, thanks to the popularity of his sister. The only solace for her is her childhood friend- neighbour Sharada (Chithra) and her sister, Savithri (Nadia Moythu) and family. Indira comes into contact with Rasheed (Mohanlal), a freelance journalist who wants to interview her. She turns him away initially but gets close to him when she comes to know that they share common interests. Somewhere down the line, Rasheed falls in love with Indira and tries to cut short her life imprisonment with the support of his mentor, Ramettan (Thilakan). In the meantime, Savithri suspects Indira of having an affair with her husband (Devan) which forces her out of her house. She joins Ramettan and Rasheed in their abode and she is set free by the government. Just when things are going fine, Indira witnesses the gruesome rape of Sharada’s maid servant by her husband (Murali) and his friends. The fiery fighter in her wakes up and she shoots the culprit down only to return to the prison. There are many who consider Panchagni as a depressing movie since the protagonist has to compromise her life for having believed in her ideology. In my opinion, that exactly is the strength of the movie. The uncompromising Indira is definitely one of the strongest female characters to have ever graced the Malayalam cine world and kudos to M T Vasudevan Nair, the master story teller, for having created her. The dialogues are natural and the milieu being that of the feudal lords of North Kerala is re created marvelously by the Hariharan- M T duo. M S Money’s scissors are razor sharp and Shaji’s camera work is wonderful. P Bhaskaran- Ravi Bombay team creates two soulful songs- Aa Raathri manju poyi crooned perfectly by Chithra and Sagarangale, a gentle melody by K J Yesudas. Murali and Meghanathan make their on screen debuts in Panchagni and put in credible performances in their respective characters. Chithra evokes sympathy, Nadia Moythu is adequate and Thilakan walks away with the best of the dialogues. Devan impresses and Nedumudi Venu is at ease playing the all- understanding Karyasthan. Mohanlal literally lives as Rasheed, this being one of his most under- stated performances ever. Watch out for Mohanlal expressing his love for Geetha, that single shot speaks volumes and volumes about the power house of talent that the actor is, something that he has proved beyond any doubts to cine goers all over India. There are actresses and then there is Geetha. How else can one describe her performance as Indira. Watching the actor emote, it is difficult for the viewer to believe that she hails from Karnataka. She is a complete natural and slips effortlessly into the highly demanding role of Indira. Truly, an award winning performance this is! To sum up, Panchagni is one of those films that will be remembered for a very long time to come for the truthfulness with which it approaches its subject and also for the natural treatment of the subject by the director- script writer duo.