'Poovan' movie review: Witty, but not meaty enough

Malayalam cinema is known to work in cliques. Till the late 2000s, there were only two main players—the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi gangs.

Published: 21st January 2023 08:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st January 2023 08:05 AM   |  A+A-

Poster of movie 'Poovan'

Express News Service

Malayalam cinema is known to work in cliques. Till the late 2000s, there were only two main players—the Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi gangs. Today, we have groups from Aluva, Kasaragod, and Malappuram to name a few. Karukutty gang, spearheaded by Girish AD, who directed Thanneer Mathan Dinangal and Super Sharanya, is the next group to make a mark in Malayalam cinema. There is an evident pattern to the films from this bunch— simple, humour-laden narratives, relatable characters, and interesting interpersonal dynamics. Director Vineeth Vasudevan’s Poovan is the latest to come from this clutch. 

The film begins by introducing Antony Varghese’s Hari, a sleep-deprived young man, consulting a psychiatrist. Interestingly, there is no major backstory as to why Hari has sleeping issues. The makers, commendably, portray it as just another condition, which gets worsened with the arrival of a rooster. One of the classic templates of a man-animal film is how the arrival of the latter starts off as an annoyance but they form an inseparable bond soon after. Though Poovan also starts off in a similar fashion, there is a refreshing ending that makes the film stand out, even if the writing meanders and loses focus quite often. 

Written by Varun Dhara, an interesting aspect of Poovan is how the film doesn’t just revolve around Hari. His neighbourhood, with its peculiar geography, is a character in itself. It’s a reflection of Kerala’s secular fabric. Here, people from different religions are shown getting along like one family. Just like how it should be. 

Much of Poovan’s first half is devoted to establishing Hari, his family, his friendly neighbourhood, and his love life. These portions are lively with a lot of witty moments. Take, for instance, the scene where a couple in love is seen arguing over the box office collections of a Vijay film, or the whole segment that follows after a girl carries a sewing machine while eloping. There is an organic flow to these stretches and has a rather engaging narrative.

However, it is the second half where things become rather insipid. Sajin Cherukayil’s Benny, a supporting character till then, suddenly gains prominence, and strangely, a lot of time is invested in his love track. Despite the genericness of this segment, Sajin impresses with a charming performance. Almost all the actors in the film deliver noteworthy performances, particularly the bunch of women, who are mostly newcomers. They look, talk, and emote like an average Malayali and the lack of flashiness make them all the more striking. In fact, it is one of the highlights of the Karukutty Cinematic Universe.

Debutant director Vineeth Vasudevan, who also plays the prominent role of Kannan aka Aatha, keeps things simple for the most part but falters when he traverses a more ambitious track involving the rooster and Hari. There is a lack of clarity as to how things escalate between the two, and it’s probably because we don’t get to see enough of Hari in the latter half. We don’t spend enough time understanding the psyche of Hari. It’s odd how a character, who was taking forward the narrative till then, abruptly gets sidelined to focus more on the subplots. Antony’s one-note performance doesn’t help either.

Poovan, like the rooster in the film, tries a lot but is eventually caged in mediocrity.

Film: Poovan
Cast: Antony Varghese, Sajin Cherukayil, Akhila Bhargavan, Anishma Anilkumar
Director: Vineeth Vasudevan
Rating: 3/5


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