I t's not often that you see such prodigious talent converge for a mighty show. The canvas of Pazhassi Raja (U/A) is breathtaking. A salutation to a brave 18 {+t} {+h} century warrior prince in Malabar, who revolted against British rule, Pazhassi Raja is a valorous tale that keeps you rooted. The Malayalam original is making waves and very astutely you are made to overlook the dubbing aspect because the main actors have lent their voices to the Tamil version too. The camouflage works even more because lip-sync is almost perfect. Pazhassi … is a saga of sincerity and hard work.

Brilliant, underplayed performances come from both Mammootty and Sarathkumar. Malayalam cinema has given Sarath what Tamil should have long ago – a role of a lifetime! It's not all brawn, but plenty of talent too, he proves. Another impeccable essay comes from Manoj K. Jayan. Contrastingly, the host of whites who play British Lords and East India Company chiefs appears theatrical. Even Linda Arsenio, the British Lady Dora, isn't spontaneous.

Despite a small kingdom and limited resources, Pazhassi Raja (Mammootty) takes on the mighty British. And self-centred and obsequious native folks, including Pazhayamveedan Chandhu (Suman), notwithstanding, Pazhassi refuses to give in to the enemy till the very end. Though he has able lieutenants in Kungan (Sarathkumar), Thalakkal Chandhu (Manoj K. Jayan), Nambiar (Devan) and Ambu (Suresh Krishna), the ruler has to steel himself for the final showdown, as he loses them one by one.

Embodying the bravery of women of the era is Neeli (Padmapriya). This heroine has the acumen to zero in on roles with substance. Pazhassi Raja is another example. The myriad expressions that dance through Padmapriya's eyes and her incredible agility in stunts are a treat.

And proving a perfect foil for the ever-active Neeli, is the quiet but bold Makam (Kaniha). It's a dream break for the heroine, who never found a foothold in Tamil despite solid roles with the likes of Ajith and Madhavan and a debut under the Mani Ratnam banner with Susi Ganesan as the helmsman!

Tamil moviegoers may find it a little too long, in spite of the pruning that's been done. And while on editing, certain parts seem to have been trimmed in haste and hence hang without relevance. Strangely, despite an action-oriented story and mind-boggling stunts, the film sags at points.

In this period film scripted by M.T.Vasudevan Nair and directed by Hariharan, tones and angles speak volumes about the stunning cinematography of Ramanath Shetty. Equally laudable is art director Muthuraj's attention to detail!

The maestro-touch comes through commendably in Ilaiyaraja's re-recording, while Chitra returns with the mellifluous ‘Kundrathu …' strains.

Thanks to Resul Pookutty's Oscar, viewers are conscious of the significance of sound in cinema, and as he is in charge of this magnum opus, you understand it even more. Again action choreography (Ravi Dewan, Thyagarajan and Mafia Sasi) is an asset of Pazhassi — the guerrilla warfare of the tribals, for instance, is astounding.

The tale of courage, patriotism, betrayal and avarice reminds you of the story of our very own Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman. Suman is the villain who sides the English, more like Ettappan in Kattabomman. It took ace filmmaker B.R. Pantulu and Sivaji Ganesan to immortalise the life and sacrifice of the Tamil king. Again, but for Hariharan and Mammootty, Pazhassi's pioneering freedom struggle may have paled into insignificance in the annals of history.

Thanks to the director, you get to know that here was another fearless patriot the country should be proud of!

Pazhassi Raja

Genre: Period drama Director: Hariharan
Cast: Mammootty, Sarathkumar, Manoj K. Jayan, Suman, Kaniha, Padmapriya .
Storyline: In the 18th century when other rulers found it safe to bow down to British rule, Pazhassi Raja was bold enough to resist their moves.
Bottomline: Kindling the patriotic spirit!MALATHI RANGARAJAN