Film: Idukki Gold

(Malayalam)

Director: Aashiq Abu

Cast: Raveendran, Prathap Pothen, Maniyanpilla Raju, Babu Antony, Vijayaraghavan

Nostalgia is this quaint charming thing about life. Seeping in effortlessly, taking you on trips down memory lane, and leading you to find things long forgotten, some pleasant, some not quite. It is often that perfect weaving in of memories with the present that makes nostalgia create magic on screen. And it is here that filmmaker Aashiq Abu, who has given Malayalam some of the most delightful films of late, misses a few stitches. Nevertheless, Idukki Gold (the title referring to a brand of marijuana grown in the mountains of Idukki) gives you some highs, with several puffs of freshness.

Michael (Prathap Pothen) comes to Kochi from former Czechoslovakia in search of his classmates - Madan (Maniyanpilla Raju), Ravi (Raveendran), Antony (Babu Antony) and Raman (Vijayaraghavan). In their 50s now, they are only shadows of their former adventurous selves. The magical haze they once shared - of Idukki’s blue mountains and its blissful weeds - compels them to undertake a trip to the hill station.

Their journey from the present to the past, of discovering each other and then of numerous rounds of convincing each other to take the trip turn out to be long-winding and tiresome. There are some witty one-liners and tongue-in-cheek observations on life that leave you chuckling long afterwards. But the lags are just too many, and the screenplay (by Shyam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair, based on a story by Santosh Echikkanam) has been stretched to a yawning more-than-two-hours. Aashiq Abu seems to have borrowed heavily from Quentin Tarantino for the titling, segmenting and visual effects, but hasn’t quite managed to get right the punch that characterises the master filmmaker’s movies.

But one thing that he gets right, almost every time, and that extremely well, is the capturing of the wilderness and liveliness of youth. The flashback sequences are the best part of the movie, with the young actors delivering commendable performances. The loss of innocence as one stumbles upon the sinful joys of adolescence has been beautifully captured, both in essence and style. Some dialogues though seem to be from an era the young writers were in school and not quite of the 70s.

The real intoxicating bit about the film is not its marijuana-induced reveries, but Shyju Khalid’s enchanting frames.

The blues, greens, and browns of Idukki take on mystical hues through his lens as he conjures up image after image of pure gold. Also weaving in magic is Bijibal’s mesmerising music score that just keeps getting better.

The surprise package of the film is Raveendran, who dazzles as the young-at-heart ‘chronic bachelor’ Ravi, even doing a jovial jig, to live up to his earlier screen name of Disco Raveendran. Babu Antony too does a class act, as the former Karate champion who now lets his French wife bully him. A film essentially of male camaraderie, it leaves little space for women. However, Sajitha Madathil and Praseetha make their presence felt in minor roles.

After an arduous trek uphill, when the mist makes way for the climax, it turns out to be cliched and predictable. Thanks to the shoddy arrangement of the screenplay, the climax is a complete give-away, leaving no room for take-away surprises.

Even for all its glitter - stunning visuals, soulful music and stellar performances - the film fails to strike gold.