Director: Aashiq Abu
Producer: PM Harris, VS Muhammed Althaf
Production Co: Fort Entertainment
Music Director: Bijibal
Star Cast: Manju Warrier,Rima Kallingal,Sajitha Madathil,Jinu Joseph,Shine Tom Chacko,Sreenath Bhasi
The rainbow of motley emotions that Aashiq Abu’s ‘Rani Padmini’ leaves in its wake, makes it a disarmingly bright film that rejoices in the indomitable blithe spirit that time and again lies dormant within. A sweet, comical and compelling film, ‘Rani Padmini’ is aimed straight at the heart and the conscience, and manages to shake up both in no time.
When Padmini (Manju Warrier) gets married off to Chandigarh, her humdrum and tranquil existence is swapped for a life at a farm, with an imperceptibly overbearing mother in law (Sajitha Madathil), and an affectionate, yet vaguely inaccessible husband Giri (Jinu Joseph). When out of the blue, Giri signs a divorce petition and drives away to partake in the Himalayan Car Rally, of which he is the defending champion, Padmini is left with no other option but to follow him and unearth the reasons behind his quirky decision.
Rani (Rima Kallingal), has grown up into less of a girl and more of a man, much to the disappointment of her mother, and has been busy shifting jobs and punching blows at every blotch of unfairness that is meted out to her. When one of her numerous plans go awry, Rani finds a dreaded gangster and his gang knocking at her doors, demanding that she pay up for what she has done. She flees, with the thug gang, hot on her heels.
The voyage that Rani and Padmini embark on, is one that is ridden with realizations – about themselves and ultimately of the breeze that has been raging to blow beneath their wings. The triumph stories that Aashiq Abu explores in ‘Rani Padmini’ should not however be genderized, since it isn’t the two women alone who reinvent themselves in the film. A penitent Giri, in a moment of rare insight, discerns the truth that had been eluding him all the while, and as he zooms away to the finishing point leaving clouds of brown dust and a serene concord with Padmini behind, he discovers a piece of himself that had remained cloaked all along.
The momentary narrative drift that occurs in the latter half is on account of the two asides that the girls recount to each other, both of which goes hammer and tongs on the obligatory requisite of delivering a momentous message at the end of it. Padmini proclaims that she does not like tales sans a message, and prompts Rani to talk of a young girl who learns a bitter truth in her life, through a gruesome mishap that leaves her pet dead. Not one to be left behind, Padmini follows it up later with an anecdote of her own, of Narayani, the sensuous village belle, and of the ruffian whom she had rubbed the wrong way.
And there are the several minor characters who occupy the fringes of this tale, like Lalithamma of the steely gaze fame, who throws a shocker on us and Padmini, before getting up to shove her wheelchair bound mother in law to bed. And how would one forget Rani’s mother who bellows and weeps with such ferocity before letting out a squeak, having sat down on a tumbler that was lying way out of place. There is the grandmother as well, inflicted with the flower-leaves-pot knitting syndrome, and the bunch of backpackers headed for Leh (led by Sreenath Bhasi), who have been bitten hard by the wanderlust bug.
There is no denying the fact that Aashiq Abu is one of the most creative craftsmen out there, and Aashiq throws in yet another bombshell on us through a wedding video that rakes up a been-there-done-that guffawing response in no time. There are the infrequent drawn out scenes (like the never ending chase in the latter half with the girls running forever and ever) that get stretched beyond the limits, but which brazenly get buried under the rest of the screwball fun.
Nostalgia, probably the most glorified of emotions, receives a gentle knock on its temple, when on the way to Ladakh, Padmini gets all keyed up on being able to lay her hands over a piece of the much recognizable 501 washing soap. Gushing over it for the next few moments and waxing eloquently on the memories that had flooded in, she hands it over to her fellow traveller all pleased, but finds her fond reminiscences going up in smoke twirls the next moment, as she embarrassedly watches him vigorously rub it all over an undergarment with a frown.
The feminist inclinations that a film as this is hypothetically expected to have are minimal, and it is more of a celebration of the fighter in us – man or woman. Scenarists Shyam Pushkaran and Ravisankar, takes us up a steep climb over the hills, before latching us on to a paraglider and letting us gently fly down the valleys with Rani and Padmini, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Having clandestinely indulged in a sexual exploit with her husband the previous night, despite the stringent reprimands of her mother-in-law, Padmini lunges back on the car seat the next day and lets a furtive smile escape her lips. Her grin retraces its step in a hurry, when she catches her husband’s mother watching her from the corner of her eye, and she instantaneously mutates it into an expression that lies somewhere between a smirk and a grimace. That is the incredible Manju Warrier in action for you, and there is simply one word that comes to my mind – Priceless!
There are any number of occasions in ‘Rani Padmini’, where you see the actor in exceptional form, and in her third film since her comeback, Manju sheds off the very last bit of torpor that had probably stuck on to her since the sabbatical, lets her hair down and permits herself to unwind with a vengeance. Blending the exact amount of charm, candour and clumsiness together, Manju Warrier brings in an enviable spontaneity to her depiction of Padmini, which is what renders her the status of an unparalleled performer, down this side of the world.
It isn’t an easy task to match shoulders with a powerhouse artist as Manju, and if Rima Kallingal does the seemingly improbable, and assertively so, it’s courtesy the infectiously agreeable exuberance that she succeeds in instilling in Rani, with an agility and liveliness that is delightful to the core. It’s a tough task to pick favourites hence, and Rima steadfastly holds ground on her own, despite Padmini having grabbed almost all the best one-liners from right under her nose.
The men are no less efficient, and Jinu Joseph strips off the heroic attire and puts on the garb of a tough man who is terrorized at heart. Dileesh Pothen is hilarious as the self-proclaimed ‘media person from the land of Kalari’, and equally uproarious is Soubin Shaheer as the camera man shorn of his name. Hareesh Khanna and Sandeep Narayan ensure that the baddie gang has us in splits.
The vast expanses of Chandigarh, Manali and Ladakh and the silences that lie therein are extensively explored by Madhu Neelakantan’s gorgeous frames that make ‘Rani Padmini’ a visual feat. Bijibal and the striking musical score that he has composed for the film, lets it bask in a floodlight of freshness that is out-and-out invigorating.
Aashiq Abu’s go-girl tour-de-force is syrupy without ever being saccharine and tugging without ever being overwhelming. It’s a film that intrigues you even more in retrospect, and bolstered by a sharp script and a scrupulous director at its helm, strikes chords of recognition in both men and women who choose to watch it!
3 out of 5 (Good)