Priyadarshan is one filmmaker who tasted creditable success, across genres and languages. The director is back with his Onam bonanza – a racy thriller Oppam starring his agent of fortune, Mohanlal. Given the director’s proven expertise in the genre, one expects a thrilling ride. So, does Oppam click? It does… to a great extent.
The film opens with a handful of confusing, disorganized visuals. We see a tattooed man in a river. There’s a chauvinist family discussing dowry for their daughter’s wedding, and also our leading man Jayaraman (Mohanlal) introduced without much hoo-haa. Visually impaired, Jayaraman is shown to have immaculate sense of smell, sound and touch. As the film unfolds, we are told how he is almost a superhero minus Spandex and six packs. The writers take their sweet time to develop the plot. There is our Good Samaritan hero and a vengeful stock villain. There are underdeveloped sub-plots, a murder and a prime victim is cross questioned with zero confidentiality – right in front of the culprit. The latter is exposed too early in the day and questionably enough, not one character doubt his presence amongst them. It is unfortunate to see the utterly melodious songs become loo breaks. Priyadarshan’s otherwise famous brand of comedy is often inappropriately integrated, which is a pity as these sequences would have worked fine in any other film. Among other things, why is it a must for the director to recruit all his favourite artists in a film that doesn’t need any? Despite adding to the film’s length, all these elements impact viewers’ attention span.
On the plus side, there Is Mohanlal who is splendid from the word go. His understanding and approach towards internalizing Jayaraman’s emotions and loyalty is commendable. Oppam is a safe on Lal’s firm shoulders and the filmmaker knew it. Adding to the impact are some real good dramatic moments weaved smoothly into the film’s thrilling narrative. There is grandeur and high entertainment quotient. The intrigue and buildup towards nabbing the villain is near perfect. Just that the journey towards the finale could have been shorter.
Cinematography is picturesque. One should add that too many aerial shots make for a distracting view often. Dialogues (and their delivery) are excellent and calls for an immediate Priyadarshan deja vu. Music albeit high melody is mostly wasted. Background score is passable. Lazy editing, that focuses more on style, is one of the film’s weakest points.
Oppam is an ensemble cast film that could give Hum Saath Saath Hai a run for its money. To give them due credit, the supporting cast puts in a great show too. Anusree shines in a role that suits her to T. We feel the script does her character sheer disservice in the climax. Why does it always have to be a one-man show, Mr. Priyadarshan? Vimala Raman is just about okay as the housemaid with a good share of secrets. We wish her track was fleshed out better. Nedumudi Venu is his usual self as the retired judge. Samuthirakani looks menacing and does a fabulous job. Baby Meenakshi puts in a balanced act as the film’s pivot. Aju Varghese is dependable in a dramatic role, for a change. Chemban Vinod and Renji Panicker pass muster. The surprise package comes in form of veteran Mamukkoya who nails his characteristically humorous part with elan. Having said that, there’s a slew of known character actors who’ve been wasted mercilessly – Innocent, Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Idavela Babu, Suchitra Pillai, Kunjan, Siddique, Kozhikode Narayanan Nair, Manikkuttan to name a few.
However, Priyadarshan’s Oppam is definitely worth a dekko this Onam season. One of the better entertainers to come out in Malayalam this year, the film works despite shortcomings – primarily thanks to a stellar lead performance by Mohanlal and his chemistry with Priyadarshan. The director handles the subject with reasonable understanding and proves why he is a force to reckon with. Go for it!
Rating: ★★ 1/2