Pada comes from an assured filmmaker who is in complete control of the material, its recreation, staging, editing, and above all, actors who contribute complementing performances. After all, Kamal KM is dealing with a subject that demands the unwavering attention of the viewer.
I found the early portions superbly executed. Four determined and methodical men are about to embark on something that would fetch national-level exposure. The gathering of equipment, preparations, and attempts to remain inconspicuous are all detailed with the same degree of precision that we last saw in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, another film about a group of passionate individuals embarking on a daring mission.
Pada presents reality as it is. It has no patience for armchair activists. It believes in walking the talk, which is alluded to in a scene where Joju George mildly expresses his intolerance for debaters who do only that. It’s an angry film, but it’s also careful to keep its histrionics to a minimum.
As the revolutionary group calling themselves the Ayyankali Pada, the four principal actors convincingly convey their firm resolve and potential to make great sacrifices for a cause of paramount importance. They rip apart the notion of laws that bear the facade of benefit for the one per cent but do the opposite: benefitting the exploiters.
Pada follows in the footsteps of some of the great procedurals like Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, or the recent The Trial of the Chicago 7. I mentioned two Sidney Lumet films. Let’s say Kamal KM gets close to Lumet’s spirit here. Like 12 Angry Men, Pada is a film that wastes no time getting to its central conflict. By the time the interval card appears, the dissenters— played by Kunchacko Boban, Vinayakan, Joju George and Dileesh Pothan—are halfway into their operation.
Kamal KM is perfectly aware that it’s possible to get points across without much noise. It keeps its emotions in check—a quality especially true of the Chief Secretary played by Prakash Raj. Kunchacko Boban is notably effective as a man who seems unapologetic about his past. His performance carries phenomenal conviction and determination. My favorite is the police station scene where he cleverly manufactures a plausible story to mask his true intentions.
Pada is at its best when it diligently explores the minutiae of the events that inspired it. By having a screenplay that shifts between the Ayyankali Pada, the crisis management experts, the helplessness of the collector and his family, and witnesses who advertently or inadvertently get involved, Kamal KM keeps things moving at a brisk pace, ably aided by editor Shan Mohammed. I didn’t even realise an hour had passed until the interval card showed up.
But for a film that’s supposed to make our blood boil at the indifference of influential individuals, Pada occasionally comes up short. I was more impressed by its technical prowess and display of verisimilitude—be it in the setting or performances—than I was by its ability to provoke. One reason for this could be my prior knowledge of the incident. But Pada should prove to be a novel experience for audiences unfamiliar with the incident, especially non-Keralites.
As a relevant history lesson, Pada is quite impactful. As a film? Not completely. But if it eventually manages to strike at the conscience of those seated in the upper echelons of power, I would be very glad. If anything, the performances of the four men inspire us to speak up in matters concerning individual rights instead of remaining silent and hiding in fear. It hopes for a solution that may not be swift, but at least it drives home the point that one needs to take a stand regardless of the outcome.
- Film: Pada
- Director: Kamal KM
- Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Vinayakan, Joju George, Dileesh Pothan, Prakash Raj, Arjun Radhakrishnan
- Rating: 3.5/5