Remembering the apotheosis of the Mohanal-Priyadarshan oevure.
‘Chithram’ is at surface the story of Purushothaman Kaimal (a superb Nedumudi Venu) hiring Vishnu (Mohanlal) to act as the husband of Kalyani (played by Ranjini), in order to please her father Ramachandra Menon (Poornam Viswanathan). Kalyani has recently had a heartbreak but doesn’t want her dad to know about it since he is on his last vacation. The result is a screwball comedy for most part, thanks to the antics of Vishnu, Kalyani’s cousin Bhaskaran Nambiar (Sreenivasan) and his sidekick. Towards the end, it becomes a gut-wrenching tragedy but the transformation is entirely convincing.
Even if you haven’t seen other Priyadarshan movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if you conclude that he is an expert in mirroring. An early scene involving Kalyani’s swayamvaram is mirrored towards the end. A happy carnatic rendition in the beginning (music by Kannur Rajan) is supplemented by one with pathos. Heck, we begin with Menon being on his last vacation but slowly realize that there is another character on his last vacation as well. If it bothers you that some of the lead characters end up lonely towards the end of the film, give a slightly deeper thought — that’s exactly how they were in the beginning of the movie. This is terrific writing that realizes that tragedy and comedy are sides of the same coin.
The beauty of ‘Chithram’ is that all these nuances extend even to the lighter scenes. I am talking about the one where Kalyani’s change of mind is shown by the way she addresses Vishnu (she eventually falls for him). And subsequently, the most hilarious stretch in the movie, where Kaimal sets up a ploy to make Vishnu admit his feelings for Kalyani. The way Mohanlal uses the props around him, the dialogues, the reaction shots everything come together in sync.
Agreed — ‘Chithram’ has great writing, competent direction, delightful music and a strong supporting cast, already making it a good masala movie. But the one single factor that elevates it to a great one is the casting of Mohanlal as Vishnu. First, we spot him as this lovable thief who is on the run for quick money. Then, we see his antics with Kaimal and Menon trying to impress the latter. Later, we enjoy his zingers with Kalyani and the classic drunken scene with Sukumari. But finally, when we know about the tragedy that awaits him, we cry our hearts out even without a second thought. He gets the film’s most amazing transformation and he makes it completely convincing. I will leave you with the following scene that shows a glimpse of the beast that is Lal. Is this why the term acting was invented?
– Sai Vikneshwar