Director VA Shrikumar Menon’s Malayalam movie Odiyan, starring Mohanlal, is a fantasy thriller inspired by the Kerala folklore on the Odiyan clan.
Odiyans used to make a living by scaring and killing people in the dark by their ability to take animal forms – be it bull, buffalo, bat or even elephant to name a few. In this movie, Mohanlal plays the role of Manikyan, who learns the “odi” tricks from his grandfather being the last Odiyan in Thenkurissi, Palakkad.
Storyline of Odiyan
The story of Odiyan begins from Varanasi, where Manikyan (Mohanlal) rescues Thankamani Varasiyar (Sreejaya Nair) from drowning in the river. Despite his sadhu avatar, she recognises and calls him by his name. Soon, the plot moves to Thenkurissi village, showing Manikyan’s return to his native place after 15 years of exile. He had left the place after the villagers accused him of two murders that he hadn’t committed.
Without knowing his real abilities, the youngsters in the village challenge Manikyan to frighten them once. He accepts the challenge and then begins a series of flashback stories that led to his exile.
In Mollywood, Mohanlal is undoubtedly the best actor who can perform the Odiyan’s role effortlessly. The transformation in Manikyan’s character from someone who frightens people to the moment when he feels afraid for his way of living is enough to prove it. Plus he has always mesmerised the audience with his physical flexibility while doing stunt performances. Even at this age, they were terrific. The initial fight scenes were a visual treat, but it had a striking similarity with how he performed in Pulimurugan. Even the iconic Pulimurugan pose is there. (Not to forget that Peter Hein is the stunt choreographer of this movie).
However, the climax fight scenes with those men in black and silver colour attire was underwhelming with slo-mo shots. That’s when I really felt like watching a Telugu mass masala movie.
Manju Warrier as Prabha, born in a high-class family, takes care of her blind sister Meenakshi (Sana Althaf). The meaty role is, of course, safe with the lady superstar.
Prakash Raj’s character Ravunni is the antagonist, whose only aim in life is to marry Prabha and defeat Manikyan. However, he overacts at times, even though he had done similar characters before. Actors like Siddique, Innocent, Sana Althaf, Kailesh, Narain, Nandu, and other youngsters have done justice to their characters.
What went wrong?
According to the popular myth, Odiyans seek power by applying oil on their earlobes taken from a killed human fetus. However, in this movie, though this gets mentioned, we don’t see Manikyan killing anyone. Not even a single pregnant lady. Here, the director has instead tried to show Manikyan as a positive superhero with supernatural powers. This raises doubts on whether the script of Odiyan is actually doing justice to the real story of the clan!
Meanwhile, there is no clarity on the time period in which this story is narrated. However, the flashback scenes take us back to the time before and after the introduction of electricity in Thenkurissi.
I also wonder why the filmmakers are trying to show racism even in today’s movies? Through the character Ravunni, we are repeatedly told that dark-skinned people are always troublemakers. Whenever Prabha meets Ravunni, we hear her reminding ‘Karumban Nair’ about his skin colour and his evil character. How is colour related to one’s character? And the makeup on Prakash Raj’s face looked terrible as if he had dipped his face on charcoal powder before his shots.
The song Kondaram featuring Mohanlal and Manju is catchy. But the romantic angle between Manikyan and Prabha in the second half of Odiyan seems to be an unnecessary addition. Initially seeing them not as a pair was a breath of fresh air. But it became yet another a clichéd angle just because of this inappropriate song. Do they always have to be a couple just because they are called superstar and lady superstar of the industry?
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From the present story to the past, Odiyan’s plot goes back and forth quite frequently, and at times, just for a single shot. The movie is nearly 3 hours and the storyline moves at a snail’s pace with some unnecessary moments. Therefore, Johnkutty’s editing could have been better with more clarity on the whole plot.
**Spoiler alert begins**
The first half of this movie ended with apparently an attack by Odiyan on an important character. And post interval we see that same person in a healthy condition talking to his wife. Soon, we hear Manikyan’s arrest alleging his involvement with the murder. I wonder why it was done this way when the makers could have easily placed the second scene even before the attack. At least, I felt so.
**Spoiler alert ends**
Nevertheless, Mohanlal’s terrific performance supported by Sam CS’s background score stands as the highlight of Odiyan. The five songs composed by M Jayachandran are also good, especially Kondoram (though not in the context of the movie) and Muthappante Unni. Cinematographer Shaji Kumar has brilliantly captured most of the visuals in the dark. However, the makers of this big-budget entertainer could have shelled out more money on making the VFX work look more real.
Ever since the makers released the promo videos of Odiyan, my expectation from the movie was very very low. My hope on this movie was completely lost after hearing negative reviews from day one of its release. But after watching the movie, I felt it’s not that bad (but not that good either) as many people claim it to be. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it to be a good one at all. And you might be wondering why I have pointed out quite a lot of drawbacks about the movie in this review!
Yes! Odiyan with a predictable plot with some melodramatic dialogues. It doesn’t offer anything extraordinary, but it has the ability to keep the audience engaged if not fallen prey to the promotional gimmicks by the movie’s team. Additional bonus if you have missed all the TV interviews by the crew. So, if your expectation is too less, Odiyan might not disappoint. Still, I would like to warn the viewers that the movie isn’t exceptional or unique.
[Considering Mohanlal’s hard work and dedication to get into shoes of Odiyan Manikyan]