‘Pada’ movie review: A sympathetic portrayal of the anger of the oppressed

What director Kamal K.M. achieves with the material has much to do with the seamless coming together of Vishnu Vijay’s music, Shan Mohammed’s editing and Sameer Tahir’s cinematography

March 12, 2022 04:41 pm | Updated March 14, 2022 01:12 pm IST

A still from Pada

A still from Pada

A majority of responses to injustice often serve the function of pressure releasing valves, as one-off protests calming the pent-up anger, while staying within the accepted confines of civil society. Once in a while, there are acts which break out of this safe zone with the victims of oppression putting even their lives on the line for what they believe is a just reaction. Pada is a cinematic chronicle of one such real-life incident, which is now almost forgotten in Kerala, although the issues raised remain as relevant now, as it was then.

On October 4, 1996, four men who claimed to be members of the ‘Ayyankali Pada’ walked into the Palakkad District Collector’s office and held him hostage for 10 hours, keeping the entire state administrative machinery on tenterhooks. They had only one demand: the State Government should withdraw the amendments made to the Kerala Scheduled Tribes (Restriction of Transfer of Land and Restoration of Alienated Land) Act 1975, which was enacted to return to the tribal people all the land taken over from them by settlers after 1960. Over the years, successive governments had watered down the law and the 1996 amendment was the last straw, driving four tribal activists to carry out a daring act to bring the government to the discussion table.

Director: Kamal K.M.
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Joju George, Vinayakan, Dileesh Pothan, Prakash Raj, Unnimaya Prasad

In Pada, Kamal K.M. recreates the events of that day to raise the larger question of tribal land alienation. His debut film ID was written around the search for the identity of an unknown labourer who had collapsed at his workplace. Here too, the protagonists are from the marginalised sections, struggling to eke out a living. We get quick, but lasting glimpses of their backgrounds, in the frenzied preparation ahead of the day of action. Balu (Vinayakan) borrows his young daughter’s wristwatch, because timings are important, even as she asks him whether he is going to sell that too. Aravindan (Joju George) delivers a line about his helplessness when a lottery seller pesters him to buy one. Rajesh (Kunchacko Boban) seems to be the only one with a history of violent acts, while Kutty (Dileesh Pothan) is busy pacifying his wife Mini (Unnimaya Prasad), who is in the know of the plan.

The script lands straight into the hostage situation without wasting much time for the set up. Inside, it is a relentless shift between various tense situations, giving no respite to the audience. On one hand, there is the constant shift in dynamics between the captors and the Collector (Arjun Radhakrishnan), who is sensitive to their demands, while on the other side there is the Chief Secretary (Prakash Raj) and team racking their brains to calm down the captors. Outside, there is a clueless team of police officers looking for a way in.

Kamal is sure of the material he is working with, be it in the political sense or the technical sense. The background research to get right the little details from that day is also evident. The fictional elements or the cinematic liberties that he takes do not take away anything from the core issue that the film raises. But what he achieves with the material has much to do with the seamless coming together of Vishnu Vijay’s music, Shan Mohammed’s editing and Sameer Tahir’s cinematography. One drawback may be the presence of too many actors who do not have a standout role, especially that of Shine Tom Chacko, Karamana Sudheer and Jagadeesh.

Pada is a sympathetic portrayal of the justified anger of the oppressed. 

Pada is currently running in theatres

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