‘Otta’ movie review: Resul Pookutty’s directorial debut fails to make a mark, despite its lofty intentions

Despite an ensemble cast, only some of them get characters having enough to do to even register in our minds in Asif Ali and Arjun Ashokan’s ‘Otta’

Updated - October 27, 2023 06:23 pm IST

Published - October 27, 2023 05:50 pm IST

A still from ‘Otta’

A still from ‘Otta’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the world of troubled loners that Otta paints, almost every major character is running away from something. Some of it makes sense to us, while some others don’t. Two of the protagonists run away from their homes, unable to bear the emotional toll of toxic parenting. One of them ends up running away from the horrible workplace that they end up in, and he further runs away from a person who initially appears to be a saviour. The third protagonist is also running and hiding from a horrific past, while an inconsequential character is shown running away from the teashop that he is employed in.

Amid all this, two protagonists — Hari (Asif Ali) and Ben (Arjun Ashokan) — seem to be having mysterious problems between them and are drifting apart from each other. Otta, Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty’s directorial debut, is about runaway children and it is no surprise that these characters are in the film. It is supposed to be based on the real-life story of businessman and philanthropist S Hariharan, who runs the NGO Children Reunited, which has produced the film with Resul Pookutty Productions.

Otta (Malayalam)
Director: Resul Pookutty
Cast: Asif Ali, Arjun Ashokan, Indrajith Sukumaran, Rohini, Sathyaraj, Adil Hussain
Storyline: Three men, who have run away from their homes for different reasons, end up in the dark underbelly of a metro city, where they try to steer towards a hopeful future
Runtime: 150 minutes 

But Kiron Prabhakar’s screenplay is hardly engaging and so uneven that their traumatic lives and sorry plight do not touch us in the way it was intended to be. It has characters plunging from one dark phase to another, with no ray of hope to be seen anywhere. Of course, the narrative being bereft of hope does not in any way become a commentary on the quality of the film, but here these events that follow one another appear quite mechanical and forced, just to serve the purpose of depicting the all-pervading bleakness in their lives.

Coupled with these are the seemingly philosophical ruminations on life that the characters indulge in at the drop of a hat. Much of these exchanges ring hollow. Some of the conflicts, especially the reasons for Ben’s drifting apart from Hari, are under-written and left to our imagination. At many points, one also wonders why their parents are so opposed to their friendship, other than the usual toxic trait of being unable to see their children having a good time. Some of their behaviour appears to be tailored just to make life difficult for the protagonists.

An ensemble cast, consisting of Sathyaraj, Rohini, Adil Hussain, Indrans, Renji Panicker, Mamata Mohandas, Divya Dutta, Jalaja and others make their appearance, but only some of them get characters having enough to do to even register in our minds. Despite its lofty intentions to highlight the plight of runaway children, Otta struggles to appeal to one’s emotions.

Otta is currently running in theatres

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