Happiness is Ganesh Raj’s calling card; one would struggle to find an unhappy moment in his work. Even the biggest of crises would seem rather inconsequential when treated light-heartedly. In the world that he envisions, warm colours pop out of every other frame. Light, feel-good music goes on and on in the background. Tears are mostly out of happiness, rather than sorrow. For that matter, his debut Movie itself was titled Aanandam (happiness).
While Aanandam was set around a group of youngsters on a college trip, in his sophomore work Pookkaalam, it is the older generation — a couple who are nearly a hundred years old and have been married for eighty years — who takes centre stage. On the day of their granddaughter Elsy’s (Annu Antony) betrothal, Ittoop (Vijayaraghavan) accidentally discovers an old letter written fifty years ago. The letter threatens to cast a cloud on the happy occasion, bringing up to the surface the family’s buried secrets
Director: Ganesh Raj
Cast: Vijayaraghavan, KPAC Leela, Annu Antony, Basil Joseph, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Arun Kurian, Jagadish
Runtime: 137 minutes
Storyline: An old letter discovered on the day of his granddaughter’s betrothal disturbs the peace of Ittoop, bringing his family’s buried secrets to the fore
The novel theme is what drives much of the Movie, but Ganesh, who has also scripted it, ensures that it does not tread on terrains that are too hot to handle, just stopping short every time the Movie threatens to slip out of the feel-good zone. Well, it is not wrong to play to your strengths. It is the kind of material which could have ended up as a heart-wrenching tale if handled by someone else.
Much of Pookkaalam focuses on the warm relationship between Ittoop and his wife Kochuthresia (KPAC Leela), and the large extended family around them, at present. Yet, it takes periodic shifts to the past, of their early days of struggles and personal losses, which gives us an idea of the impact that the crisis would have on the close-knit family. The crisis also shines a light on the unpleasant episodes that people wilfully forget to keep the ship sailing smoothly. People who seem sober in their old age might have done terrible things in the past. At one point, Kochuthresia ominously tells Ittoop, “We have been living in this house for eighty years. If we dig deep around here, we might find uncomfortable things.”
Ganesh attempts to balance every emotional moment quickly with a light-hearted scene, some working and some don’t. For instance, a running joke involving a junior advocate (Basil Joseph) and his old friend (Vineeth Sreenivasan), who is now a judge, seems a bit forced. Despite all the younger cast of actors around them, Vijayaraghavan and KPAC Leela hog all the limelight with their moving performances as the couple who are facing a crisis late in their lives. In the moments that he acts stern, Vijayaraghavan brings back memories of his father N.N.Pillai’s iconic character ‘Anjooran’ in Godfather.
Pookkaalam is a feel-good family entertainer with a novel theme that ends rather tamely and predictably.
Pookkaalam is currently running in theatres