More than the preparation for the two wars at the centre of Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, if there is anything happening on a war footing in the film, it is the character introductions. Almost an hour into the film, new characters are still being introduced by the minute, with each of them just getting a minute or two to create an impression on the viewers, who are at times left bewildered by the crowd on-screen. The star cast is so huge that it is possible that the scriptwriters at some point must have wondered where to fit some of them in.
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It is perhaps this approach, that focuses more on the grandness of the whole thing — be it the budget, the star cast, the sweeping battle sequences or the visual effects — which made them lose sight of the basic building block on which one need not spend crores: the script. Director Priyadarshan, who scripted the film along with Ani. I.V. Sasi had the task of building a cinematic tale around the well-known story of Kunjali Marakkar, the Naval Chief of the Zamorin of Kozhikode, who led a valiant fight against the invading Portuguese in the 16th century.
The fictional embellishments come in various forms, including the young Marakkar’s (Pranav Mohanlal) short-lived marriage with Ayesha (Kalyani Priyadarshan); a love affair between Marakkar’s trusted lieutanant Chinali (Jay J Jakritt) and Archa (Keerthy Suresh), the daughter of a local ruler; and not to forget the many palace intrigues against Marakkar. But, all of these fictional additions to the basic story lack an emotional core, one of the reasons that the viewers don’t get time to get used to most of the characters. Even someone like Manju Warrier, as the grieving wife of one of Marakkar’s men, fails to make an impression, even though she has an important role to play in the narrative.
- Director: Priyadarshan
- Cast: Mohanlal, Pranav Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Nedumudi Venu, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Arjun Sarja
- Duration: 181 minutes
- Storyline: The legend of Kunjali Marakkar, the Naval Chief of the Zamorin of Kozhikode, who led a valiant fight against the invading Portuguese in the 16th century
Stars such as Arjun Sarja, Prabhu and Suniel Shetty all get roles that are interchangeable with each other, with no defining character. Character development suffers, in the case of Marakkar (Mohanlal) too, who does not even get a few worthy lines to deliver. Some of the lines even end up as unintentional humour in the most sombre of situations, while some seem out of place in a period movie. A few references to Priyadarshan’s own films are placed at inappropriate junctures, like when Marakkar asks Ayesha to jump off a rock, promising to catch her.
The film’s promotional USPs were the visual effects by Siddharth Priyadarshan and Sabu Cyril’s production design, both of which are commendable by Malayalam cinema’s standards and limitations. The dated background music only serves to remind the viewers of the Hollywood movies that the battle scenes are directly “inspired” from.
By the time one walks out of the hall, after a rather tiring three hours, one would struggle to recollect a single memorable line or scene, other than the ones filled with special effects. That the writers failed to elicit such moments out of a story with immense heroic and emotional possibilities, makes it an even bigger disappointment. Kunjali Marakkar certainly deserved a much better tribute. In the end, it is not about the crores that you spend, but about how well you manage to engage and move the audience.
Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea is currently running in theatres