Pattabhiraman Movie Review: A well-intentioned but hackneyed effort
The attempt to address a serious issue is laudable but one wishes the makers had opted for a more sophisticated way to do it
In Pattabhiraman, Jayaram plays a food inspector who provokes the ire of dishonest businessmen and restaurant owners after he learns that they are operating way below the prescribed safety standards. Pattabhiraman asks everyone to eat natural food in a film that looks.... artificial.
Almost every frame in this film is so glossy it resembles a jewellery ad. It opens with a wedding song that also doubles as a devotional song (two birds with one stone, I guess). And there’s also a fair amount of hero-worship. The titular character is that stereotypical do-gooder whom we have seen countless times before. In one scene, a district collector recalls that Pattabhiraman was the college senior who once helped alleviate her hunger. He is so authentic that at one point he tells a celebrity TV host Tanuja (Miya George) that he can’t marry her because he can’t imagine kissing lips smeared with stuff that’s.... artificial.
Director: Kannan Thamarakulam
Cast: Jayaram, Sheelu Abraham, Baiju Santosh, Miya George
But one can’t really blame him considering what Tanuja does in the film’s latter portions. Pattabhiraman is someone who prides himself on his ability to detect artificiality, and not just in the food he eats. It’s one of the reasons why he has been single all this while. The other reason is that he hasn’t been able to find a woman who can prepare good rasam yet. But he’ll find her soon, in the form of Vineetha (Sheelu Abraham) who perfectly fits his idea of natural beauty.
Complications arise when Pattabhiraman goes against a businessman named KRK (Jayaprakash), whose company has been manufacturing food products loaded with all kinds of hazardous chemicals. And the fact that Vineetha happens to be the relative of a corrupt police officer (Baiju Santosh)—a colleague of Pattabhiraman’s—makes things increasingly awkward. An interesting pre-interval development sends Pattabhiraman into hiding and the film turns into what it actually is better at being, a thriller. This means the cheesiness is slightly dialled down in the second half.
But since this a Jayaram film, we guess that somewhere down the line things will get better for Pattabhiraman. And though things get relatively serious later, a fine balance is maintained through a couple of effective comical sequences. The ever-reliable Dharmajan gets one clever slapstick moment that had me laughing out loud. It’s also the moment where Ramesh Pisharody makes a guest appearance. But then Jayaram goes back to preaching again, which becomes quite off-putting. I’m sure by now everyone who is part of their family WhatsApp group is aware of the adulteration of food. But nevertheless, one has to appreciate director Kannan Thamarakulam and writer Dinesh Pallath’s intentions. One can tell they were serious about the message they wanted to deliver, even if their mode of delivery is lacklustre.
Are people going to change their lifestyles because of this film? I’m not so sure. If at least one person does something about their food choices after seeing this film, then I would be glad. I must admit that some of Jayaram’s statements made me rethink about my food choices. Most of us wish we got to eat organic, homemade food every day—and preferably made by us. In one scene, Pattabhiraman is asked how a busy man like him gets the time to water his plants, and he replies that if you make nature your priority, then it’s not so difficult. It’s an inspiring as well as a memorable line, but not always practical.
There are far better ways to tell a story about a crusader fighting a social evil and yet, some filmmakers still stick to a tried-and-tested formula. I wish the makers had done something different with the material they had, like making it a story about a whistleblower. We haven’t seen a riveting whistleblower film like The Insider or Erin Brockovich in Malayalam cinema yet. Why not now?