Prathi Poovankozhi Movie Review: Manju Warrier and Rosshan Andrrews stand out in this tense thriller
The main character of Prathi Poovankozhi, a salesgirl named Madhuri (Manju Warrier), is molested in a crowded bus on her way to work one day. It's an experience that almost every woman must've gone through at some point. Some react strongly to it, some chose to let it go. But Madhuri isn't from the latter camp. She wants payback and doggedly pursues the pervert despite knowing who he is and what he is capable of.
Director: Rosshan Andrrews
Cast: Manju Warrier, Rosshan Andrrews, Anusree Nair, Saiju Kurup
Compared to Rosshan's previous film -- the big-budget Kayamkulam Kochunni -- Prathi Poovankozhi is relatively smaller, with a few characters and happening in a small town. It presents Manju Warrier in arguably her angriest role since Pathram. As Madhuri, Manju channels the rage of every woman who has gone through a similar situation. Madhuri is seen in an agitated state for the most part, not surprising given the provocative elements in her neighbourhood. In addition to her family's deplorable financial situation, she has to deal with a noisy neighbour who abuses his wife, followed later by the pervert from the bus. The case of the neighbour is easily resolved, but what about the other two?
The main male character in Prathi Poovankozhi is emblematic of every pervert in the world, and his name -- Antappan -- becomes a synonym for any man who dares to place his filthy hands on a woman. Antappan is played by the film's director himself, Rosshan Andrrews, in a terrific acting debut. It's an effectively creepy performance that transitions into something else in the second half. A marketplace fight scene, in which he takes on several goons with considerable ease, gives us an idea of the looming danger that Madhuri will have to confront. It is staged in a way that evokes the fight scenes in the big superstar movies. In a different film, Antappan would be a 'mass hero'. But the real 'mass hero' in Prathi Poovankozhi is Madhuri.
When her colleagues dismiss Antappan's behaviour as 'normal' ("something that every woman must learn to endure"), Madhuri decides to teach Antappan a lesson, even if it means losing her life in the process. She lets her rage overshadow her fear. The much-anticipated showdown between the two happens just before the interval block. But then something unexpected happens, and the film goes in a different direction which I didn't expect. It surprised me in the same way that Finals, the recent Rajisha Vijayan movie, did. Both films do something interesting within their respective genres. The threat level in Prathi Poovankozhi is upped when it is learned that there are much larger forces at play, which include a police sub-inspector (Saiju Kurup in another tailor-made role) who slowly reveals himself to be a fox in a khaki uniform. The cop has ulterior motives behind helping a woman in distress. That's one more problem for Madhuri to deal with.
While the intentions of the principal characters are explicit, the intention of the others is not. Antappan's connection to a few supporting characters and what they have against him is vague. The viewer is left to fill these gaps by themselves. This narrative decision may confuse a certain percentage of audiences. There could also be discussions about Madhuri's friend (played by Anusree Nair). But put these factors aside and what you get in Prathi Poovankozhi is a tense, raw thriller that offers some catharsis, even if it's for a short period.