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There are only a handful of films in 2016 that were driven by a substantial story. This tragedy produced by Salim Kumar is one of them.
Karamban (Salim Kumar) is a young man who returns to his homeland Kerala after serving a jail term of 10 years in Dubai. Happy to have survived the horrible incarceration, he hopes to meet his family. However, a friend informs Karamban that after waiting for a year, his family thought he was dead, and subsequently fled the village in search of better living conditions. This upsets Karamban, as he sets out to look for his family. When he does find them, their current condition startles him as he spirals into a state of denial followed by anger...
The film deals with the rare subjects of religious conversion and fanaticism. A different take on life and how religion as a norm affects people. Karamban is devastated to learn that his family members, including his wife Pennamma (Jyothi Krishna) and daughter whom he has never seen, have converted to another religion. Although we know it happens all the time in the real world, hardly has it been a theme in a work of art. For solely that, we as an audience starving of essential stories, should thank the makers.
There are some highly interesting characters in the film - protagonist Karamban, who is unable to accept his family's altered religious orientation; Babu Antony playing a man who is Christian by heart, but is skeptical about the world we live in where no one is an orphan; Karamban's younger brother (Sudheer Nair), who is adamant at making his brother convert so that the family can live in peace; and lastly, Karamban's wife, who is torn between her husband and her daughter, both of whom are right in their own ways. With a story that can be a hot topic for a debate, director Razzaq carves a bold film and speaks volumes about how religions are a menace to the society, although people still believe the opposite is true.
It's a dull film, but it is meant to be so, because criticism cannot always be delivered with jubilance. The film reminds us that religion and everything that comes with it is worse now even as we are a decade and a half into the new century. Together with helplessness of the judicial system, Karamban sees himself as a dead man who is unable to rekindle his relationship with his family. It is heartbreaking to see that a situation which could have been handled with ease and simplicity blows out of proportion just because the inherent beliefs in different religion prevents people from acting in a way.
There are some great dialogues in the film, which can be quoted if you are having that debate I mentioned above. Man is the cruelest of all beings who will do anything to lead a merrier life. Karamban's temptation to go back to his family forces him to convert, but he forgets that he has his own religion to consider, and amalgamation is a sin as is reiterated in the film countless times.
It is also clear that not much weight was given to the filmmaking parameters, evident from the first shot itself. It's an average execution with shoddy camera work and production setup, but the slow narrative is enough to capture its audience if they are interested in the subject. Kumar is decent in his role, and so are the other actors. Happy to see Antony after a long time.
Overall, it may not be an entertaining film, but it definitely conveys a message or more, along with its tragic climax.
BOTTOM LINE: Late T A Razzaq's final film, "Moonam Naal Njayarazhcha" is an objective take on religion, and should be considered by everyone. It may teach you a thing or two about freethinking. Buy that DVD now!
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
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