Jayaraaj is a canny director - he ropes in for an unusual subject some of Malayalam cinema's most popular stars and manages to extract from them performances of their life. There is no point giving away the story - which is the movie's great strength: a rarity in a country whose cinema is often more than willing to go with cliché and formula.
Geetha turns in an impeccable cameo as she always does. The big clash between faith in god and faith in man, theism and atheism, ritual and belief of one kind versus another is embodied in the tussle between Suresh Gopi's character and that of his father played by the always-solid (Professor) Narendran, a revered priest in the film. Set in a changing India, the film captures a young Marxist in Kerala in confrontation with an older way of life that he (rather easily) brands as superstition and oppression. As audience, we must navigate constantly - Gopi speaks on behalf of an aggressive idealism that seeks to break down Kerala's (India's?) age-old servility to a feudal/hierarchical and deeply oppressive agrarian order. Narendran stands for an increasingly moribund way of life, all the more sentimentalized because his character stands unflinching, with a quiet dignity, in the face of a galloping new mindset that recasts all belief as superstition and empty ritual.
In between these two seemingly indomitable men is the character of Bhanu Namboodiri (played challengingly by Jayaram), a priest novitiate under father Narendran. In Bhanu's torn love for brother Gopi and fidelity to his own belief, like father Narendran, in a higher order of things, the audience finds a rough moving parallel.
The music is by far the best thing in the film - 'Seetha Kalyana' rendered by Chitra and later by the inimitable Yesudas with a kind of haunting power carries the entire film.
The movie has its problems - some simplifications, a less than consistent cinematography, some nostalgia even - but over-all, Jayaraaj presents a moving look at a fundamental question of human existence: what do we believe in?
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