By T S Sudhir
The headline of this blog pretty much says what’s on my mind. I would rate Mammootty’s `The Train’ that released yesterday, as one of the most difficult Malayalam films I have seen till date. Difficult because it was really difficult to sit through the film. After the extremely insipid first 20 minutes, I was hoping, somehow celebrated writer-director Jayaraj would redeem himself. But no, in keeping with the subject of terrorism, the filmmaker did a fidayeen job with the gullible audience.
The film branded itself as a `suspense / thriller’. It was anything but that. It meandered along, spinning insipid tales of other passengers who were on the train or at different railway stations that evening in July 2006 in Mumbai. Among them a grandfather, a singer (Jayasurya) who is to travel to Chennai to sing for A R Rahman, a lady who successfully manages to get the freedom fighter pension without paying a bribe.
Every time the scene moves from Mammootty playing Kedar, a cop in the Anti-Terrorist Squad, to the other characters, I found people in the theatre, just a handful of them anyway, fiddling with their phones, eating popcorn or chatting with each other. Mammootty himself seemed like sleepwalking through the role. Not his fault. Not a single scene challenged his immense acting talent. And to think that I got tempted by the tag of a `suspense / thriller starring Mammootty’. Ende kartaave !
The film could well have been titled `The Cellphone’ because all through the film, everyone is talking to each other on the phone. Very few conversations actually take place between two persons face to face. As I write this, I can’t think of any. Sounds very RGV-ish, doesn’t it?
Speaking of Ramgopal Varma, his favourite actor Kota Srinivas Rao finds space in this film, as a senior IPS officer, whose only pastime, nay job, it would seem is to ask his junior Mammootty to call it a day and go home. And then to call Mammootty’s junior, Jagathy Sreekumar, to find out where he and Mammootty are. Mumbai Police should file a defamation case against Jayaraj.
And there is this dull and boring hint of a romantic relationship between Jayasuriya and the brilliantly expressionless Aanchal Sabharwal that goes nowhere beyond phone calls and text messages. He calls her by mistake when she is just about to commit suicide after which she decides not to jump off the building. She might well have. Would have saved the audience a lot of bother.
For a film on terror, none of the bomb-planter characters are etched out. They are mere couriers, carrying bags with bomb-fitted pressure cookers inside them, contributing to footfalls at different railway stations in Mumbai.
The much-awaited relief comes at the fag end of the film. This when the credits roll to some very uninspiring background music. That BGM is a constant through the film by the way, perking up only when Mammootty moves in slow motion.
Jayaraj is an award winning director with several commercial hits and critically acclaimed films to his credit. Which is why it is sad to see him dish out a product like this.
If I know my cinema, `The Train’, like the bombs that go off in the film, will bomb as well.