Urumi – A review

Yesterday along with two friends I went to watch Urumi – the new epic saga film made by Sangeeth Sivan. Having gone with lots of expectations some of them attained fruition, while some measure of disappointment had been there too.

The starting minutes of the movie were simply superb. The styles of narration, the way the movie went to the flashback were simply superb. However as the movie progressed on jarring fault within the movie became more and more evident – TOO MUCH SONGS. It seems there is a song whenever a character sneezed! There is also a song when the character is not sneezing! Some of the characters were totally unnecessary like Vidya Balan’s supposed role as a mystical Mukkom, a devi deity who in an oracle like fashion prods the hero towards greatness. Despite the prophecy not becoming true at all, the even worse part is the totally unnecessary song and dance number created just so that the audiences could be horrified at the sight of a swerving and gyrating Vidya Balan in some feeble imitation of erotic dancing. The video work is good, songs are passable, but the horror of Vidya Balan’s dances? The Mukkom prophesied that the hero, Kelu would become the King of Chirakkal and his friend Vavvaali would become the General of armies, two prophecies which never came into fruition.

Overall in hindsight the plot is pretty good, because 8 hours after you watch the movie, especially after a sleep which helps forget the greatest horrors one is left with only the better memories of the movie. The usual ideological hero uniting the masses battling oppression, the son growing up seeking vengeance on the murder of his son, the usual treacheries and backstabbing of power, the reformed despot being murdered off just when he turns benign, frankly these kind of plot twists are quite a plenty in Indian cinema. However the redeeming part is the role played by Genelia D’Souza, that of the Arakkal Princess, Aysha. The role she portrayed was a fresh one and it was quite well played by her. Her fight scenes were an absolute visual delight.

The hero, Kelu Nayanar portrayed by Prithviraj starts out as an ideological warrior who is out on a quest of vengeance. One of the biggest ideologies he spouts quite frequently is that “women and children are never to be harmed.” This ideology even caused him to let a pregnant rabbit go free, because she was carrying children. But this however did not cause him to raise a finger of protest as the Arakkal Palace was sacked by his “allies” nor when the womenfolk of Arakkal were brought as sex slaves to the Chirakkal Palace. Sure he rescued some women but references to some women already being distributed as bounty to the victorious soldiers of Chirakkal bring out the hollowness in the hero’s ideology. Despite knowing pretty well the heinous intentions of the Chirakkal King and the paedophilic inclination of the Chirakkal Prince towards a little girl from Arakkal family, the hero watches on mutely. Is his silent refusal not to partake in the spoils offered by the King his idealism? Or should he have as a true leader protected these women? The fact that the “hero” was spurned into saving these hapless women only after the little girl was brutalized by the Prince further renders asunder the hero’s credentials.

Apart from this huge flaw in plotline rest of the movie is more or less good. The battle scenes are reminiscent of the movie “300” and quite well taken too. Technically this movie is impeccable. Nearly the two hour mark of watching the movie one also realizes that this movie could very well be an advertisement for Yoga. Every single thing these guys do is through some stylized yoga or kalari posture. Sure some dances could be choreographed through this manner, but every single song and dance number? At one point it stops being charming and becomes seriously irritating. Context, my dear sirs, context.

Plot wise another thing of note is the historical references. The references are quite well researched and despite not being very knowledgeable about Kerala History, I am impressed. There are several references to the Kingdom of Cochin or Perumbadapppu Swaroopam, and of the Cheraman Perumal legend.

It is here that I find myself ideologically opposed to the premise of the story. The Perumpadappu Swaroopam has been portrayed unflatteringly as lackeys of Portuguese. Sure Perumpadappu is best known for its diplomacy but its success is principally because of the onus on Raja Dharma. The first and foremost consideration for any ruler is the well being of his citizens. For the well being of the citizens any amount of compromise by the ruler personally is acceptable. When weak seek alliances, when strong project power – that is the rule of statecraft. Ideologies like protecting of the weak, abolishment of excessive taxation etc can only be followed if one has the power to enforce it. Otherwise it would be a myopic vision.

Sure the premise of this movie is popular, weak uniting against oppression but at the end of the day the lesson I would take from this story is that the silly ideologue is dead, those who placed trust in his myopic vision crushed, but Perumpadappu and those who bet on it for survival lasting prosperously through the centuries.

At the end of the day, Urumi is a must watch movie. With exceptional cinematography this is a movie of unparalleled technical brilliance in Malayalam cinema. Reasonably well taken, reasonably well laid and reasonably well casted, this movie is worth watching in a cinema theater, at least for the sheer visual and sound effects of it. Here is to the hope that in his next movie Sangeeth Sivan directs there would be less masala content and more substance!


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