‘O.Baby’ movie review: Ranjan Pramod delivers a blow to the crumbling, imaginary edifice of honour

O.Baby explores feudal society through the minds of a few young people, who want to break free from the stifling atmosphere

June 09, 2023 04:54 pm | Updated 06:08 pm IST

A still from ‘O.Baby’

A still from ‘O.Baby’

Open spaces seem to kindle something in Ranjan Pramod. While his previous film Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu was set around a playground, his latest O.Baby is set in a vast plantation and forest land, all of which are under the vice-like grip of one family. It is pandemic time and almost the entire family has gathered for a betrothal, but all of them have an eye on the land and are devising ways to get their share from the ailing, but active, patriarch Pappi (Gopalakrishnan).

O.Baby (Malayalam)
Director: Ranjan Pramod
Cast: Dileesh Pothan, Devadath V.S., Haniya Nafisa, Raghunath Paleri, Gopalakrishnan, Saji Soman
Duration: 124 minutes
Storyline: The relationship between a girl from an aristocratic family and the son of a caretaker leads to violent repercussions.

Yet, this film is not that concerned about the property or the internal feuds, rather it is trying to see it all through the eyes and minds of a few young people, who want to break free from the stifling atmosphere. The betrothal scene, which opens the movie, is a hint as to what lies ahead. A visibly unhappy girl walks in, a briefcase with money exchanges hands outside the church, a boy of her age seems to know what is going through her mind and tells someone that she is about to say ‘No’, when the priest asks. But, she gives in. Over the next hour, we get to know why she said that, for she comes from a household where the elders know how to get things done their way, and violence, to any extent, is par for the course.

O.Baby (Dileesh Pothan), who lives in a small house not far away, is their chief enforcer. He has surrendered his entire identity to the family, with the ‘O’ in his initials, signifying his family name, being the only thing that marks him apart. His son Basil (Devadath V.S.) is made of a different material. Beginning with carefully worded questions on parental authority, he evolves into a full-blown rebel who will stand up for what he believes in. Within the feudal family, the one who plays this role is young Mini (Haniya Nafisa). But, the more violent ones among her family, especially her uncle (Vishnu Agasthya) , have other plans.

Pramod uses the high-range forest in various ways to build his narrative: be it in using the wild boar hunt to establish the setting as well as some characters or in the young ones finding hope and even a business opportunity in a viewpoint at a remote, forbidden corner of the land or in a passing shot of a couple on either side of a stream, placing it as a line that separates them. The forest also becomes his staging ground for some gruesome violence involving men and animals. It is such a world away from Rakshadhikari Baiju where the men just wanted to protect a piece of public land to play on. But, just like in that film, he takes his time in building the world and taking us to the core story.

The script is as much a study about the extent to which some people go to protect their imaginary concept of ‘honour’, as much as it is a marker of their increasing alarm at the younger generation having a mind of their own and not paying heed to the boundaries that they draw. O.Baby is a blow at that crumbling, imaginary edifice of honour.

O.Baby is currently in theatres

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