Film: Idukki Gold
Direction: Aashiq Abu
Cast: Maniyanpillai Raju, Prathap Pothen, Raveendran, Vijayaraghavan, Babu Antony
Few other things command as much influence on the Malayalis psyche as nostalgia. Right from our national festival which positions the apparent hopelessness of the present against a perfect past to our craze for the antiques which we once contemptuously threw out, seem to be markers of this.
Some of our new-age film-makers work this to their favour by throwing in a reference or two to a classic film or dialogue which receives wild cheers from the crowd. But, of late, at least some of these attempts which ended up as mere gimmickry have been frowned upon by the audience. Aashiq Abu and his writers Shyam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair seem to have realised this as their latest work Idukki Gold, which has a nostalgic theme, uses such references judiciously. And, as a safety measure, they have made the characters themselves poke fun at the ‘nostalgia disease.’ The film is about the coming together of five friends after 35 years and their trip to the Idukki high ranges to rediscover the magic of their school days. The gang comprises Michael, an NRI (Prathap Pothen); planter Madan (Maniyanpillai Raju); government employee and Left activist Raman (Vijayaraghavan); karate expert-turned-restaurant-owner Antony (Babu Antony); and photographer Ravi (Raveendran).
Based on Santhosh Echikkanam’s short story of the same name, Idukki Gold is a fun ride for the initial part. Narrated in an episodic fashion, it switches between their school days and the present which includes tracking each of the friends down and planning the trip. The 70s are brought alive in warm colour tones, long sideburns, and a triple drum-dominated background score.
The comic timing of Raju and Raveendran stands out in the shorter first half which is well paced. The humour is fresh and some of the episodes such as the one on ‘plastic’ have been executed well. Though the five young actors who play them during their school days deliver strong performances, the lack of similarity with their present look gives some amount of confusion to the audience.
In the second half, the lack of a coherent story is evident as the jokes run out of stock and the narrative progresses just on the strength of some exquisite shots of the misty high ranges and a trippy stoner sequence by Shyju Khalid. Now, there is something clearly wrong if all you have got to talk about the vital part of a film is the cinematography.
The script starts to unravel towards the end with bizarre elements such as an unnecessary elephant attack which does not add much but rather disrupts the film’s general flow.
The so-called surprise element towards the climax, filmed amidst a garden of Idukki Gold , does not leave one ‘high.’ Syrupy statements on friendship further add to the pain.
For a film which carries the name of a popular variety of marijuana, there is ample amounts of smoke and drinks to get overtime wages for the ‘smoking is dangerous’ announcements. The only sad part is that some of the smoke seems to have been used to fill the gaps in the script too.
The ’70s are brought alive in warm colour tones and the humour is fresh.