Cast: Mohanlal, Asha Sharath, Arundathi Nag
Any analysis of a writer/director like Ranjith becomes easier when you think of him as two different people. One is the guy who writes blockbusters like Devasuram, Aaram Thampuran and Narasimham, and who can also direct Ravanaprabhu, Chadrotsavam, Prajapathi and the abysmal Loham. Here, his ambitions are more primal… it’s just economic success and popularity that he’s after.
Then there’s ‘festival’ Ranjith, with films like Kaiyoppu, Leela and Paleri Manikkam. The ladder he wants to climb here is far steeper, with his need to fit into the echelons of the ‘artistic’and the ‘intellectual’ filmmakers. When he is in this mode, he has a set of fans that compare him to another writer-turned-director Padmarajan, no matter how blasphemous that sounds.
Drama, his latest starring Mohanlal, is a curious mix of both the Ranjiths and the result isn’t pretty. It’s set in London, where Rosamma (Arundathi Nag) has come to visit her daughter. A couple of days there, and she breathes her last, setting off a chain of events that require her four other children to travel to London from around the world. There’s a bit of drama when one of the daughters ( a nurse who understands how hospitals operate) disallows Rosamma’s body to be kept in the mortuary until she gets there. A son, on the other hand, wants his mother to be taken back to her hometown, where she can be laid to rest next to her husband.
Enter Rajagopal Narayanan (Mohanlal), a partner in an undertaker company whose job it becomes to take care of the body until the funeral. In one of the scenes that follow, it’s just Rajagopal in a house alone with the corpse. It’s set up like a play, with nothing but Mohanlal in conversation with the body. A lesser actor wouldn’t have been able the hold the scene for more than a minute, yet here he is, acing it with just a bottle of whiskey and a bar of chocolate in hand. Is there another actor who can play drunk in so many different ways?
One feels the film’s heading to a Seventh Seal-like dialogue-a-thon, like it does in Ranjith’s own Prachiyettan And The Saint, but Drama has other plans. The ‘drama’ heads back to the family and how masterfully Rajagopal manipulates them to get what he wants…which is to get back with his wife. Or is it to make sure Rosamma gets what she wanted? No one really knows.
In between all of this is what the Internet has come to call ‘Ranjithisms’. Call it casual sexism wrapped in a veil of pretentiousness, but it gets hysterical when names like Pablo Neruda and Milan Kundera are tossed around for effect. Maybe someone should show how Ranjith how Goodreads works.
Coupled with ordinary acting (why do supporting actors and extras perform so badly in films set abroad?) and a screenplay that has more subplots than characters, Drama ensures that Rock And Roll isn’t the worst Ranjith-Mohanlal film yet. Now, that is no mean feat.