A country bumpkin from the remote forests of Kerala wins a government job and is abruptly transplanted to a big, bustling city in Prakasan, the sophomore feature of Dubai-based director Bash Mohammed (Lukka Chuppi). Though its ending is telegraphed from the very first scenes, the scripting is basic and its humor at times painfully broad, this Malayalam comedy with a message becomes heartfelt and endearing thanks to a vivid turn by upcoming actor Dinesh Prabhakar, who is also credited as executive producer and casting director. It was one of the more direct and communicative films making their bow at the Mumbai Film Festival.
Mohammed has a very good eye for scenery and paints the village of Chamakudy as an Eden before the fall, where the tall, strapping Prakasan (Prabhakar) sports with his mates, girlfriend and mother. They live off the land and barely know what money is. Cavorting in forests straight out of Shangri-la, or Avatar, diving into pools under thundering waterfalls, eating the fruits of the earth and wearing knotted pieces of cloth as garments, these tribal people are depicted as living in a completely harmonious earthly paradise, with no problems on the horizon.
Simplistic but somehow endearing.
Yet the hero nurtures a dream. He wants to move to the city and see the world, and incredibly, he has been chosen to work on a World Bank health program by the regional government. Against the advice of his buddies and the emotional boycott of his women-folk, he says goodbye and crosses a mountain or two on foot, gets a lift from the friendly forest guards and for the first time in his life boards a bus.
Prakasan’s adventures in the city are all misadventures, from the dishonest people he meets, the smelly slum and unpalatable food, to the surprising revelation that his job is to educate local sex workers about the wisdom of using condoms on their clients. Given a large wooden dildo on which to illustrate the concept (which will come back to haunt him at exactly the wrong moment), he is dumped without further explanation in the red-light district. Unfortunately, he can’t tell a prostitute from a society lady, and misunderstandings dog him until he makes the climactic blunder that brings the story to a most satisfying close.
Prabhakar, who is now making his mark in Hindi movies, is a winning Tarzan-turned-bureaucrat; he keeps the audience totally on Prakasan’s side against the city folk, who are aptly described as “elephants running amok.” Yet more than villains, the latter seem like misguided souls who have forgotten the meaning of life and can barely connect with each other, much less the natural world.
Tech work is clearly on a budget, particularly in some of the city scenes. Editors Manoj and Reza Serkanian do a sophisticated job with the material they have, jumping back and forth in time so smoothly it’s hardly noticeable. Pappinu, the cinematographer, sharply contrasts the chaotic colors of the foul-smelling city with the deeply saturated ones of the natural world, like a multi-colored, heart-shaped natural pool that takes the breath away.
Production companies: Feelreel Cinemas with Overlap Films
Cast: Dinesh Prabhakar, Indrans, Balaji Sharma, Saiju Kuruppu
Director: Bash Mohammed
Screenwriter: Rajeev Nair
Producers: Sheeja Muthaleef, Bash Mohammed
Executive producer: Dinesh Prabhakar
Director of photography: Pappinu
Production designer: Pradeep
Editors: Manoj, Reza Serkanian
Casting director: Dinesh Prabhakar
Venue: Mumbai Film Festival (Discovering India)
World sales: Overlap Films, Paris