One, On Netflix With Mammootty, Is A Middling Film Driven By A Political Fantasy

Director: Santhosh Viswanath

Cast: Mammootty, Murali Gopy, Joju George, Salim Kumar, Mathew Thomas, Nimisha Sajayan, Madhu

In Shankar’s Mudhalvan, an ordinary man, Pugazhenthi, becomes the chief minister for one day. He does miraculous things that corrupt politicians in power wouldn’t do. One takes it to a whole new level by asking: what if the actual chief minister, Kadakkal Chandran played by Mammootty, was like Pugazhenthi? Till he makes an appearance at the half hour mark, we think he might be a fearful person. We are made to feel this fear through the eyes of a young boy who has posted something derogatory about him on Facebook. He’s an ordinary guy with a father who works in food delivery. What if he antagonizes a very powerful chief minister of the state?

But we are never really in suspense because the chief minister is played by a charismatic Mammootty. You wouldn’t cast him as the bad guy. The film’s problem is in this utter predictability. The chief minister is so good, so pure and selfless that he becomes a big bore. It’s easier to portray Ravana on screen than Rama. One tries to do a Rama on us for two and a half hours. 

With Mammootty as Rama, it’s never the character that’s a problem but the writing. At least, his character doesn’t get stranded like Babychan (Joju George), Lathika (Nimisha Sajayan), MP Dinesh Rajan (Sudev Nair), all of which could have used better writing. We could have gotten a three dimensional picture of what’s going on both in the professional and personal world of the chief minister. 

This is not technically a ‘mass film’ but the hero gets an introduction where the feet are shown first and he also gets a couple of slow motion shots. There are also a few ‘mass’ comic bits like the one in an auto and one where Kadakkal Chandran plays on the fact that his father was a barber. The comedy is broad, but so is the film: when Mammootty makes a big speech in the end, we actually cut to Gandhi with ‘Vande Matharam’ playing. 

I wish the opposition was better defined and didn’t just say lines like ‘Politics is not a service. It’s a business.’ There’s also a puzzling bit about the CM’s memory loss that comes and goes without really pointing to anything. Yet, the movie is strangely watchable. 

The film has its heart in the right place. It made me strangely optimistic about the country, if only we had a leader like Kadakkal Chandran. What if you could have a CM who arrests the revenue minister for corruption? Or one who apologizes to people for the inconvenience of a hartal? What if we could call the CM in case of an emergency? It’s fantasy, but sometimes you just have to hold on to straws.

Subscribe now to our newsletter