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January 22 2019
‘Odiyan’ review: Low on imaginative energy
15 December 2018

Shrikumar Menon’s Odiyan simply fails to live up to his eerie reputation or create that rare sorcery on screen

A shape-shifter and his dark odyssey. The premise carried enough charm, even to overlook Mohanlal’s cream-and-alabaster face in the promos. But Shrikumar Menon’s cinematic take on the myth is not a spectacle seething with imaginative energy you expected it to be. Rather, it stays suspended between a star-driven drama and flawed fantasy.

In the film Mohanlal plays Manikyan who is both Batman (with a very low-end batsuit) and Wolverine, Hulk and Hellboy. Once he goes into the Thenkurissi ninja-mode it's impossible to beat him, but he is not born out of some freak accident in a secret lab or was exposed to radioactivity as a kid. Surprisingly, he is flesh-and-blood and has inherited all the superpowers from the senior Odiyan, his grandfather.

Odiyan suffers from lack of vision as the director-writer duo seems to have no clue about how to tread that tricky territory where reality and fantasy intersect. They could have gone for a full-blown fantasy, or an underdog vs upper-class drama or even a psycho-thriller as the legend springing from a body of lore suits it all. But the film ends up as an average fare, the retelling of a run-of-the-mill story with jarring parts.

Instead of weaving a compelling medley of myth and reality, scenarist Harikrishnan goes for an insipid storyline and the director approaches it with equal lethargy. But the biggest flaw of the film is its predictability. You feel the film has simply replaced Shreehari, the hero of Chandrolsavam, with some local Tarzan. The narrative is so plain without any element of surprise or build-up for a story shrouded in mystery, and there is an air of artificiality that sets in immediately after the Varanasi shots. Adding to the cliches is Prakash Raj's dark-skinned 'mura cherukkan' obsessed with the heroine. The film leaves many elements under-explored while filling its frames with everything ordinary and mediocre. It inserts songs at the most inappropriate moments and even the non-linear narration turns a drab exercise after a point. The film has upper-caste communist villains who thrash Odiyan for sport and plot sitting in a room with its wall full of party icons. An attempt at allegory perhaps.

The climax choreographed by Peter Hein is equally underwhelming but it’s the only point you feel Manikyan is not part of any school play of fancy-dress competition. The final showdown of the film introduces version 2.0 of the tribe, a volley of high-tech assassins straight out of some Japanese martial arts film. But then you know how it will end as predictability is the only virtue of Odiyan.

The film demands nothing from Mohanlal other than draping that karimbadam (shawl) in slow motion and wearing those kadukkans (earrings) in iridescent blue. But there are moments that ensure the actor in him is safe below the many layers of pancake. The film lacks those mass frenzy moments, but among all the frailties it is Mohanlal who holds it together, making the film partly bearable. Manju Warrier as Prabha delivers her best performance of late while Innocent and Siddique seem totally lost in a weak script.

Shrikumar Menon’s Odiyan simply fails to live up to his eerie reputation or create that rare sorcery on screen.

 

 

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