Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum Movie Review: Laidback entertainer with enough laughs, romance
The film is structured like a lighthearted novel, with characters expressing believable emotions and concerns. Is the template original? Not quite. But I'm not complaining
Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum comes from the mind of Akhil Sathyan, one of the twin siblings born to Sathyan Anthikad. If you thought the sensibilities of Varane Avashyamundu, directed by Anoop Sathyan, reminded you of those in his father's earlier films, wait till you see Pachuvuam Athbutha Vilakkum. The 'Sathyan Anthikad' DNA is more evident in this one. There is the flawed hero who isn't instantly likeable. Prashanth, a.k.a Pachu, is merely a franchisee of a reputed Ayurvedic pharmacy. But he likes to play the boss. His explanation? After three years of toiling as a therapist, he wants to take it easy. It's an attitude that's true of many bosses.
Director: Akhil Sathyan
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Anjana Jayaprakash, Viji Venkatesh, Vineeth, Mukesh, Innocent
Akhil, who also edited the film, opts for a leisurely pace. He takes his time establishing Pachu and his background, dedicating the entire pre-interval segment to just that. The basic idea is to make us feel completely at ease. In spite of a few tense moments, it is wary of increasing our blood pressure. Akhil comes up with several brilliant laugh-inducing gags that felt novel to me. And even though the screenplay takes a relatively serious turn post-interval, it isn't completely devoid of humour. The comic timing of Fahadh, Althaf Salim (the standout performer), and a brief appearance by the late Innocent ensure that. One situation has Pachu dealing with a fish bone stuck in his throat. Another involves a proposal that goes awry due to Pachu's interference. And what about the old Maruti with a self-honking capability?
The mood of Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum recalled the good old days when Priyadarshan, Siddique and Sathyan Anthikad used to deliver one ingenious comedy after another, written either by them or Sreenivasan. Akhil's script of Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum has that same laidback quality. No matter how many things go wrong, you get the sense that things will be alright eventually. You may call it 'predictable', but I don't see anything wrong with that. Sometimes that's just what I want -- to be comforted, not challenged. And Akhil doesn't hold back when it comes to showing how much impact his father's work has had on him, which he illustrates through a few scenes where people are watching vintage Sathyan Anthikad movies, either on their television sets or smart phones.
That's not to say Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum doesn't have any depth. It does, but not the kind where it's trying hard to show how deep it is. Its emotions are accessible. Pachu, for instance, acknowledges that he once used to be a toxic character. But he evolves to a point where we find him slightly endearing. This evolution comes about through a complicated -- not for us, but the characters -- parallel story involving a quirky but distinguished grandmother Laila (Viji Venkatesh), her influential but passive-aggressive son (Vineeth), and a mature, strong-minded Goa-based Malayali graphic designer Hamsadhwani (Anjana Jayaprakash). There are more, but I don't want to let out any potential spoilers.
Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum is a case of casting done right. These actors embody the quirks and nuances of their characters so well. Take Laila, for example. She is a bit adventurous. There is a whole joke involving her pepper spray. She inaugurates it by testing it on herself. I couldn't help but laugh. I thought, "Here at last is a Malayalam movie grandmother who doesn't behave like the usual Malayalam movie grandmothers!" I also liked how Anjana Jayaprakash doesn't make her character Hamsadhawni sound like a woman from a Mills & Boon novel. She is convincing as a character trying hard to fill a void recently left in her life.
What about Fahadh, you might ask? While the arc of Pachu is not what one would call fresh, considering how the transformation he goes through gets prompted by the presence of a female character, a trope we have seen in more than one Sathyan Anthikad film, Fahadh throws in the most appropriate reactions to every situation. My favourite is the one where he has to rely on hand gestures while nursing a mouth injury.
Nowadays, I get instantly sceptical about any Malayalam movie with a three (or near) hour duration -- unless, of course, it's an epic with a visual scope and competent storytelling that demands it. Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum demands it. It's structured like a lighthearted novel, with characters expressing believable emotions and concerns. Is the template original? Not quite. There are places where Akhil's experience with documentaries lends a sense of authenticity to the way locations like Mumbai and Goa are depicted. There are places where it aspires to be a fairytale. But I'm not complaining. I went in expecting a wholesome, but not too syrupy, experience that would leave a smile on my face, and that's exactly what I got.