Ganagandharvan Movie Review: Pleasantly absurd treatment of a relevant subject
Though not all the jokes hit the mark, Ganagandharvan has enough tricks to entertain family audiences
In his second film, Ramesh Pisharody turns every character into an opportunity to crack a joke, regardless of their or anyone else's emotional state. The best example of this is when a character attempts suicide and instead of turning on the gloom, the sequence is treated in an unexpectedly comical manner. You might question the logic of that, but I found it pleasantly absurd. Not every film has to mirror real life. The deviation from the usual melodrama is such a welcome relief.
Mammootty is Kalasadhan Ullas, a stage troupe singer who dreams of bigger things. He trying to make ends meet with whatever compensation or tips he pockets from local events. We learn that he once sang at an event in the United States. It is also suggested that he actually lip syncs to the tracks recorded on CDs. The film opens with Ullas singing the popular Ilamai Edho Edho song from Kamal Haasan's Sakalakala Vallavan to an electrified audience. Before he is done, two police jeeps approach. He is apprehended for a crime.
Director: Ramesh Pisharody
Cast: Mammootty, Athulya Chandra, Vanditha Manoharan, Suresh Krishna
The film travels back in time — a bit confusingly, I might add — to get us acquainted with Ullas' history. We learn that Ullas is a married man with a schoolgoing daughter. The young girl is not too proud of her father's job. Her schoolmates' nickname for him — Ganagandharvan — is not helping things either. Ullas and family are not living the life they hoped for. (One can't help but feel vibes of Best Actor (2010) here.) This is when a seemingly golden opportunity lands on his lap which subsequently lands him in trouble.
Ganagandharvan sometimes goes back and forth without bothering to inform us which portion is past and which is present. This tendency to make a film look interesting by writing a slightly non-linear story seems to be a recent, and unfortunate, trend. But it is a minor quibble in an otherwise engaging film.
Though it has been tagged as a 'Mammootty film', Ganagandharvan also pays enough attention to its female characters. Ullas has not been able to live up to the expectations of two particular women, in two different ways, and he is taken to court by both. The film brings in a third female character to point out the ill-effects of victim culture whilst also empowering another woman. Usually, stories of a man being tricked by a woman are treated with a tinge of darkness. Pisharody, however, surrounds Ullas with enough quirky characters whose witty one-liners do a good job of diluting the serious stuff.
As the constantly anxious and hesitant Ullas, Mammootty is, as usual, terrific. However, it's actors Suresh Krishna and Manoj K Jayan who stand out due to their propensity for springing surprises when we least expect it. Their characters come with amusing backstories. And it makes complete sense because despite being the main character, Ullas has been treated as someone who doesn't stand out from the crowd. He doesn't even get a mass fight scene. His only 'action' moment happens when he tries to stop someone from getting hit.
Ganagandharvan says something that needs to be said, in a simple, neatly entertaining package. Its statements on victim culture are pertinent, especially post the explosion of the #MeToo movement. Is a woman to be believed just because she is a woman? Can she not be untruthful? But at the same time, the film wants to make it clear it's not anti-women. Unlike many recent entertainers, it doesn't feel the urge to resort to sexist jokes or double entendres.
I found this better than Pisharody's previous effort. Though not all jokes hit the mark, Ganagandharvan has enough tricks up its sleeve to entertain family audiences.