Basil Joseph stays the course even when the script goes adrift-Entertainment News, Firstpost


Palthu Janwar’s first hour is funny, insightful and filled with eccentrics played by a superb cast. The next hour meanders, becoming by turns silly and conservative.

Imagine that you failed in your attempt to start an entertainment business and were forced to become a livestock inspector in a mountain village. This is the career change that life imposes on Prasoon Krishnakumar played by Basil Joseph in Palthu Janwar.

The two professions are polar opposites, so it’s no surprise that Prasoon is unhappy with the change. He is not particularly attached to animals and is therefore initially dispassionate for his work. He also struggles in this foreign environment where he has to deal with the often unreasonable, sometimes contradictory demands of the local population, the shenanigans of politicians and other government officials. His messiah in this quagmire is his friend Steffy (Sruthy Suresh), a veterinarian whose cell phone consultations get him out of several sticky situations with beasts.

It is into this world that rookie director Sangeeth P. Rajan and writers Vinoy Thomas and Aneesh Anjali invite us, in a film produced by the formidable trio Fahadh Faasil, Dileesh Pothan and Syam Pushkaran.

As Prasoon adjusts to an unfamiliar environment, we discover a fascinating assortment of animated support characters in this predominantly Christian community. There’s the local parishioner played by Indrans whose memory problems, coincidentally, don’t diminish his talents as a politician. An energetic and enthusiastic Christian priest (Dileesh Pothan) is always ready with hocus pocus as the solution to every problem. Dr. Sunil Isaac (Shammy Thilakan) is a corrupt government vet who neglects his primary occupation for the sake of a sleazy side gig. Meanwhile, an unfortunate citizen named Davis (an excellent Johny Antony) finds an urgent need drowning in a hullabaloo created by establishment neglect and inefficiency.

Rarely has the blame been shifted by the authorities so easily as in this film. Rarely has it been more difficult to disentangle a character’s distraction from his political games than by observing the incredible Indrans in Palthu Janwar.

The men get all the well-written parts of the movie except for Unnimaya Prasad as Prasoon’s sister who offers him the advice which I think is the main point this script makes.

Palthu Janwar works at two levels. On the one hand it’s about Prasoon’s journey to this strange place in a tough new job, as we watch and wonder if the two will eventually grow on him or it will be a brief interlude before he returns. to animation. On the other hand, it is also about attracting us, the public, to this remote region with its mixture of people ranging from the pleasant to the immoral to the uncertain, and to familiarize ourselves with their mode of life, until we too are on a parallel journey with Prason. So, will this crazy place end up growing on us too?

The first hour of Palthu Janwar sails by a breeze. The characters are wacky, the cast superb. Basil’s natural childish charm is an asset which he complements by giving Prasoon an endearing vulnerability and alluring innocence.

Palthu JanwarThe crisp, funny, and insightful first half gives way to a meandering second half that lessens its overall impact. A conversation that Davis had previously shown with a statue of the Christ Child is left hanging. And towards the end, the film suddenly, inexplicably finds itself with a villain – a cold, calculating butcher staring down at a sick, beloved pregnant cow. Unlike the rest of Palthu Janwar, his role in the proceedings lacks a humorous sheen, nor is he given a sympathetic manner unlike the other questionable characters in the film. It’s strange that the writers and director are doing this at a time when beef eaters and butchers are being demonized by Hindutva forces in India, and Dalits and Muslims have been attacked, even murdered, on the mere suspicion of own beef. The fact that this character is featured in a story set within the Christian community – a religious minority that is also on the main target list of this mainstream ideology – makes him particularly misjudged and thoughtless.

The last moments of Palthu Janwar are designed to symbolize the hope and new beginnings represented by motherhood across species. It’s a little teary-eyed and too literal for my tastes, with imagery encompassing a cow that has just given birth and a woman’s body in all its pregnant glory. Motherhood as a metaphor for hope might have been acceptable had women been central to the rest of the story, but that is not the case. Palthu Janwar is a male-centric film in which each woman is defined by her relationship to a male figure – so-and-so’s daughter, wife or sister, so-and-so’s friend on the phone. The scene with the pregnant person is the only one in which a woman takes precedence, thus unconsciously revealing the traditionalist view of the film according to which procreation is the main goal of women. It is a conservative position that is romanticized in society by deftly trampling on motherhood and devi– challenge mothers, then offered as justification while pressuring women or preventing them from withdrawing from this role.

DoP Renadive looks fantastic while filming Palthu JanwarIt’s beautiful locations, but I longed for more visuals of animals bonding with people. Whether it’s a director’s or script’s choice, it’s a flaw in a film that revolves around the human-animal equation.

Palthu Janwar is then well started but finally undone. It’s a good case study for those whose public comments imply that slice-of-life cinema – a genre mastered by the new New Wave Malayalam – is child’s play. The creators seem to lack conviction even in their choice of genre. On the one hand, the Hindi title (meaning: domestic animal) is incongruous in a film so rooted in the soil of Kerala. The name reflects the incongruity of the end credits accompanied by the unforgettable song, Palthu Fashion Show, featuring animals with dancing children. This number is completely at odds with the film’s calm tone and rural Kerala setting, and mimics a Bollywood formula that is long past its sell-by date.

Lost in all of this is an important lesson contained in Palthu Janwar. Popular liberal discourse has been advising young people for some time to pursue their dreams, which is good. Palthu Janwar takes this point further, gently adding that what you consider your calling may, unfortunately in reality, be a line you are not so good at, and it may be necessary to assess your talents and occasionally re-examine your dreams. It’s an interesting premise, certainly worth exploring. But the writing and directing of Palthu Janwar are unable to build on it after a winning opening hour.

What works in Palthu Janwar are the sense of humor and cultural details of this pre-gap half and main man. Before knowing Basil Joseph the accomplished director, we knew Basil Joseph the actor. The past year has been crucial in the career of the two Basils. At the end of 2021, he led the ensemble cast of an acclaimed film, Jan-E-Manand shortly after his directorial venture, Minnal Murali, has made waves nationwide with his distinctive take on the superhero universe. In Palthu Janwar, Basil digs beyond his own easy charm to bring the majority of Prasoon to life. He’s so… how can I put it? … cute … and so easy on camera, her talent is likely to be underestimated. It shouldn’t be. Even when Palthu Janwar loses its moorings, Basil Joseph is the only element that stays the course.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5 stars)

Palthu Janwar is in the rooms

Anna MM Vetticad is an award-winning journalist and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. She specializes in the intersection of cinema with feminist concerns and other sociopolitical concerns. Twitter: @annavetticad, Instagram: @annammvetticad, Facebook: AnnaMMVetticadOfficial

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