Sunday, August 15, 2010

God's Own Landlords

A scenic backwater village, farmers, a corrupt, land-crazy Panchayat President and his equally corrupt family, a duty-conscious Secretary -- form the crux of Pramani. B. Unnikrishnan rather successfully converges global geopolitics to a small farming village in God's Own Country. The aptly named hero -- Viswanathan Panicker a.k.a America/George Bush, (nicknamed so for his propensity to interfere in every single issue in his Panchayat, and reap benefits from it), is an out-and-out corrupt local head, who grabs his citizens' land in return for solving their issues. Hence, Viswanathan is a literal 'pramani', because he holds lots of 'pramanams' (land deeds).
The two neighbouring panchayats of Chittetukara and Tahzhekeezhpadam are at loggerheads, with the latter headed by Viswanathan refusing to co-operate with the former under the headship of Castro Vareeth (a staunch communist that he is; played effectively by Janardhanan). The nick names of the heads and the geopolitical disagreements between their localities rather clearly drives home the parallels in the global scene. Also, there is mock Mao (Suarj Venjaramood who got the tag, not because of his revolutionary idealism, but due to his job of making arimavu); his gimmicks of guerilla warfare to kill Viswanathan make up the comic part of the movie.
The movie addresses issues that have been dealt with in many others, but the treatment is slightly novel in that the hero is a corrupt local head who has no qualms in cheating his citizens, even when it comes to selling their farmland to big IT company that comes with the usual promises of jobs and development, with the boss voicing the opinion that farming is no longer profitable. The issue of depleting farmland finds mention in Anthikad's Bhagyadevata also. When Benny (Jayaram) attempts to convert his paddy field to plant coconuts, the local partywallahs make a hue and cry about the loss of farming lands due to bourgeois practices. B. Unnikrishnan tries to make a strong statement against proliferating cyberparks through Viswanathan's conscience prick, and his transformation that entails. After all, no one can eat computers and optical fibre cables, can they?
Though the female characters -- Sneha (Panchayat Secretary Janaki), Lakshmi (Rosy Teacher) -- are rather subdued, they in fact function as catalysts for Viswanathan's volte face -- a transition further enhanced by the social commitment of Bobby, the teacher's grandson. In spite of tricks and traps laid by his estranged cousin, Somasekharan (Siddique), Viswanathan emerges triumphant, holding aloft the values and ideals of his mentor Varkey ( Prabhu), the late son of Rosy Teacher.
Pramani thus can be classified as a social entertainer. Though the issues raised herein are not new, and the movie does not provide any path-breaking solutions, it serves in highlighting the current social scenario in the state and thereby serves in reminding the audience the fact that outside the theatre, life is not all rosy, that there are serious resentments seething under the garb of normalcy that the state donns. How many such movies would bring the required change, only time will tell. But till then, movies continue to be entertainers and a significant source of consciousness raising.

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