Aadhi Film Review
Malayalam Cinema

“Aadhi” comes with lilting music, parkour and a charming Pranav Mohanlal…

There’s no faultless recipe when it comes to a high profile star launch in Indian films. You either go the minimal route giving the young debutante(s) his/her leeway to figure out things. Otherwise, you create a canvas that is so big that it is impossible to not appreciate the mounting, if not anything else. It’s a play with fire in either case. Director Jeethu Joseph’s Aadhi takes a middle route as the film announces the arrival of celebrated actor Mohanlal’s son, Pranav.

The film opens with a bountiful of nostalgia. We see Pranav in an uptown bar humming an unplugged version of the iconic ‘Mizhiyoram’ from Mohanlal’s debut film Manjil Virinja Pookkal. That very moment we are sold to the young actor – or at least the reason why a houseful auditorium is watching him in the first place. Aadhi soon takes us to its title hero’s loving parents (Siddique, Lena), friends and his struggles to make a cut in the music industry. Essentially a music-filled scenario, we even notice how Joseph’s writing extrapolates certain elements in order to develop his characters. In this process, we do notice a level of plasticity creeping in for no reason. For instance, it is quite strange to see the musically inclined protagonist practising parkour by the beachside and somewhere do we feel the filmmaker is opening a predictable loop to be closed later on papers. Joseph’s way of staging routine scenes with Aadhi and his friends is artificial, even by commercial film standards. Pranav, surprisingly, is given less freedom to explore himself barring those scintillating action sequences, a couple of intimate moments and two beautifully picturized songs. Then again, somewhere we thank our stars that Aadhi is no Clarke Kent. He is frightened, vulnerable and his only tangible assets seem to be a certain level of incredible agility. Fair enough!

The film, however, picks up the pace through the second half. It is the familiar crime-and-no-punishment framework that Jeethu Joseph is famous for. Soon we are introduced to several characters – some interesting, some lustreless – who have their own agendas to stand by or against Aadhi. Again, more than the film’s predictable narrative pattern, the deftly choreographed action scenes are what we look forward to. Dynamically shot (Satheesh Kurup) and effortlessly performed, these stunts are first of their kinds in Malayalam cinema. It also works that the Aadhi’s characterization and the entire backdrop here is earnest enough to be related to. Right when I gasped at a slightly over-the-top line being mouthed by Pranav, he tumbles down and pukes out of fatigue. Clearly, he’s no Hrithik Roshan from the latter half of Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai and that works.

Jeethu Joseph’s assortment of characters is a mixed bag. I thoroughly enjoyed Aadhi’s supportive, close-knit family who, somehow, are clueless throughout the latter half. Aadhi’s confidante from the initial segment (Krishna Shankar) strangely goes missing once the actual action kicks off. The close circle that Aadhi makes in Bangalore (Anusree, Sharafudheen, Meghanarhan) come across as believable too, more so because the actors are supremely competent with their histrionic abilities. In comparison, it is appalling how the prime villains are of sheer cardboard variety. Their intentions, sudden appearances and disappearances make the plot singularly unexciting, only to be salvaged time and again by Pranav and his fluid physicality. As a performer, the film doesn’t offer him too much scope to emote. From whatever we see of him, the young lad certainly shows promise. He is blessed with a good voice and a vulnerable face that springs an immediate connection.

As for Aadhi, it acts more as a fine showcase of his current skillset as opposed to what the youngster wants to evolve into. Writer-director Jeethu Joseph gives him all classic hero clichés to execute and as a result, we see Aadhi feeding a bedridden mother, snubbing his neighbourhood fangirl and the mandatory act of ‘almost’ smashing a goon’s face with a massive rock. And boy, do we even see him sing and perform on stage like a true blue star. Now that his stylishly crafted intro reel is over, can we see the real Pranav sometime soon, please?

Rating: ★★★

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