Oppam: When narrative fails a meaty role

Direction: Priyadarshan

Cast: Mohanlal, Samuthirakani, Nedumudi Venu

Oppam has none other than Mohanlal in a role that could arguably be any actor’s dream: a visually challenged person chasing a killer. And at the helm of this thriller is Priyadarshan. The duo indeed promised some sparks when the trailers hit the mini-screen in the pre-Onam frenzy. But what could have been a tightly made crime drama — where a visually challenged person is the sole ‘witness’ of a murder — comes to us in a rather diluted mixture, with a good amount of family sentiments and an assortment of characters thrown in.

Mohanlal is totally at ease as Jayaraman, his screen presence not in the least affected by the physical challenge. But it should be added that the script gives him skills to live up to the hero image that has been painstakingly built up since the Nineties. At times, it gets quite overwhelming as some of us could start wondering, like his co-actors do on screen, if he can actually ‘see.’ Oppam has intriguing camera angles and dark corners set as the backdrop as Jayaraman is being tortured and hunted down. Still he escapes with amazing dexterity from the clutches of the police and an able-bodied villain.

The premise is built upon the guilt trip of a retired judge, played by Nedumudi Venu, who finds a confidant in Jayaraman. As the plot unfurls in a posh apartment complex, we are given some light moments. But in a sequence reminiscent of the one in Kaakkakkuyil where Cochin Haneefa and Jagadeesh discuss the hiding of a key, the writing trips and falters despite having Chemban Vinod and Mamukkoya enacting it.

Oppam is almost entirely carried forward by Mohanlal with Samuthirakani securing the other end. But the going gets tiring as the narrative is interspersed with two almost back-to-back songs and a number of faces diverting attention.

They say Malayalam filmdom has entered a new phase. But the financial burden being brought about by an imminent wedding in the family still seems to be the single-most important point of conflict.In an age where women’s empowerment is an oft-repeated sermon, it is worth considering whether films like Oppam are actually reflecting a social reality or simply going after a regressive trend.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:22:04 PM |

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