Papanasam: Small budget, taut thriller

In the 1990s, when Kamal Haasan was so successful as an actor, producer and director, I yearned for him to act in a small budget movie. A movie, which would showcase his acting skills, and not distract us with elaborate set scenes. That’s happened now after all these years with Papanasam. I haven’t seen Dhrishyum, the Mohan Lal starrer in Malayalam, and so this taut thriller kept me interested till the last scene, which is superbly done.

Hey Ram, Virumandi, and the latest Uthama Villain are essentially vanity projects in which the star is showcased. Compared to that string of movies – and I don’t want to take anything away from the actor – Papanasam has Kamal giving the star in him a rest and this gets us to look forward to the actor in him.

When I first heard of Dhrishyum – my Malayali friends were in considerable awe of it – I had it pegged as an art film. So the commercial elements in Papanasam surprised me. I am also surprised that Kamal chose this project. But admirably he has and it shows his penchant for new material, which he often writes himself.

But Papanasam has Kamal working in what is essentially a Jithu Joseph project. Kamal, for a change, hasn’t written or produced the movie. And, because the material is so refreshing, we are on the edge of our seats till the end.

Kamal is very good till the climax when his dialogues become an incoherent mumble. But we are in awe of the actor and are willing to let this one pass. Gauthami, Kamal’s real life partner, plays the role of the wife to perfection. And in a particular scene late in the movie, I was reminded of the attempted rape scene in Kuruthipunal.


Niveda Thomas as Kamal Haasan’s daughter in Papanasam

The first 20 minutes leading up the disastrous nature club tour are leisurely paced typical of the town it is set in. I was left wondering when the movie would start. But once it does, it propels on in high speed. Kalabhavan Mani is a brilliant actor and his villainy is admirably characterized in this movie. His corrupt cop is at loggerheads with Kamal’s villager right from the beginning, when he mentions the hero’s powder smell.

Kamal’s family life is brilliantly evoked. He plays Suyambu Lingam, a school dropout, who runs a successful business as a cable TV operator and farmer. His transformation from rustic villager to shrewd father and husband who needs to keep his family protected from the police is well evoked.

But the movie doesn’t capture your complete attention till the final 20 minutes. The slow-paced first half can get on your nerves. But one has to admire the way the characterization is done. I like the tea shop owner played by MS Baskar.

I also thought the cinematographer Sujith Vasudev was brilliant. His work becomes a part of the movie without standing out. It takes brilliance to do that. Gibhran’s music could have been better. The songs were forgettable, but the background score stood out.

Since this review is written a day after release, I will refrain from writing about the plot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.