Time behaves strangely in Gold. Alphonse Puthren employs a variety of editing techniques to manipulate reality. (No, this is not a sci-fi film.) We get freeze frames, colour shifts, jump cuts, ripples, waves, reverse-forward playback, audio enhancements, dialogues merging into the soundtrack, split screens, and so on... Puthren plays with his movie as a DJ would with a record.
A few of these choices work—they contribute neat comical touches— but most of them feel self-indulgent and had me wondering whether they were really essential. They don’t enhance the storytelling. They are all mind-numbingly jarring, and if it was about catering to viewers with low attention spans, I’m not sure they work.
Even Thallumaala—a fantastic example of inventive editing and staging—had areas that tested my patience due to this very reason. Gold is a simple case of a simple plot stretched beyond a necessary length. Unfortunately, it is neither Ayyappanum Koshiyum nor Thallumaala.
When Premam came out seven years back, I was one of the few who didn’t find it remarkable. I don’t dislike it entirely, though, because it wasn’t a total waste of time. I have some favourite moments from it, but here’s the thing: I’ve never felt like revisiting it after that first watch in the theatre. But despite me not being a fan of it, I was keen about watching Gold owing to this ‘image’ Puthren has developed over the years. That might seem a strange reason to watch someone’s film, but sometimes, your expectations get met. (The recent Mukundan Unni Associates is a great example—a classic case of walking the talk—from a newbie that too.)
Is it possible to be fascinated with a filmmaker without being a fan of his work? I think so. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I hoped to see Puthren make a film with better ideas than the ones in Premam. Gold delivers on that front, but only to a small extent. The strange thing is, Premam didn’t quite boast of a novel idea, but more of it worked for me than Gold because it was relatively less self-indulgent. Watching Premam was like having a meal with not all the dishes to your satisfaction, but at least it wasn’t as grossly disappointing as Gold.
In Gold, there is a scene where two women go into a mobile phone shop and ask for a smartphone that would be ideal for making Instagram reels. I found this line amusing because Gold feels like watching a glorified Instagram reel. There is a brief stretch where the film goes into a black-and-white mode, and the explanation we get is that this scene involves “black money.” What?! In another example, the subtitles tell us, “it’s the sky above a police station; this is the land below it”.
In other instances, we get a word or two from a dialogue showing up on the screen in bold colours, aside from the characters’ names displayed in the same way. In one ‘counting’ scene, numbers appear above each of the boxes that comprise the cargo of a Mahindra Bolero that, for some mysterious reason, is parked in front of Prithviraj’s house one fine morning—the opening that sets off the chain of events in Gold.
There are also markers to inform us when and where some flashbacks are happening. Since all these are interlinked, Gold qualifies as a ‘hyperlink’ movie. But its events are not interesting enough to make it a Traffic (both the Steven Soderbergh film and the unrelated Malayalam film of the same name) or a Syriana. We get obvious analogies—praying mantis, ants—the significance of which is readily apparent when considering the parallel activity involving the human characters. But these, too, get exhausting after a point. I presume they are there to mask how inadequate this film is. I also found the film largely unfunny, save for the portions featuring Chemban Vinod Chose, Roshan Mathew, and a hilarious verbal warfare between Lalu Alex and Shammi Thilakan.
The film also wastes more time by focusing, in two disparate places, on a band singing an unremarkable song and a dance group. Speaking of, don’t get me started on the soundtrack. Unable to sit through them, I wished my mind possessed jump-cutting powers too. Also, what was the purpose of casting Nayanthara in such an insignificant role? Why are Malayalam filmmakers giving her such weakly written characters—and why is she accepting them? (There was Love Action Drama and Nizhal before this.) But I’m still trying to understand why some of Lalu Alex’s gestures and words cause the image or audio to have a sudden seizure.
He is not the only actor to get this treatment. Even a mundane walk or action of Prithviraj is slowed down or enhanced in a way that makes it look like it was all done by someone who just started learning editing on Irfanview or Filmora or something. I mean, this is the same frustrating quality that we find in most amateur short films. Gold is a perfect testament to the fact that knowing editing doesn’t necessarily make you a good filmmaker.
That said, I must give props to the team for not giving away the plot or character details in the teaser and promos. It is why I have opted to keep my review free of those details because, in this age where people spoil everything on social media, it’s nice to see at least somebody going against the grain, even though the output didn’t meet my expectations.
Director: Alphonse Puthren
Cast: Prithviraj, Nayanthara, Shammi Thilakan, Lalu Alex, Baburaj, Roshan Mathew, Vinay Forrt