Friday, March 10, 2006
When it comes to light entertainers, Priyadarshan's track record is very impressive: Hera Pheri, Hungama, Hulchul and Garam Masala. Obviously, you expect his latest entertainer, Malamaal Weekly, to live up to the promise.
When the reels of Malamaal Weekly begin to unfold, you expect it to be malamaal with comic situations and sequences that make you flex your facial muscles. Laughter is a difficult emotion to capture on celluloid and much more difficult is to get the right set of actors who have a terrific timing to tickle your funny bone.
While the casting of Malamaal Weekly is perfect, it's the script that lets Priyadarshan down this time. Of course, Priyadarshan's earlier films also defied logic and the emphasis was on non-stop entertainment, but Malamaal Weekly has too many tracks running parallel with the main plot and the outcome isn't as stimulating as the accomplished director's earlier works.
In a nutshell, Malamaal Weekly isn't great cinema. Nor is it a terrible letdown. It floats in between, a strictly average fare with the by-now-famous Priyadarshan touch visible sporadically and intermittently.
Malamaal Weekly is about the struggles and survival of people in a small town. Plagued by poverty, bad harvests and a monster of a moneylender called Karamkali [Sudha Chandran], the people in this town are barely able to make ends meet.
Lilaram [Paresh Rawal], one of the town's inhabitants, earns a meager source of income through his business of selling Malamaal Weekly lottery tickets. One day, while watching TV at a local tea stall, he learns that one of the tickets he had sold has in fact won Rs. 1 crore bumper prize.
As most of the villagers don't own a TV set and are illiterate, Lilaram knows that he is privy to this information. The question is how to find that one ticket from the 105 he has sold. An idea hits him. Lilaram throws a party: A virtual festivity for the people who are fighting to survive. Lilaram, already debt-ridden, manages to host this party at the expense of his one last asset -- his goat, who is treated like a child by Lilaram's wife.
Now, the party is only for his 105 customers on the condition that they bring along their tickets as an invite to the celebrations. As luck would have it, all turn up except one --Anthony [Malayalam actor Innocent], the drunkard. Lilaram decides to pay him a visit. On reaching Anthony's house, he finds Anthony dead in front of the TV. Too shocked on hearing about his victory, Anthony is dead, with the lottery ticket still in his hand.
What follows from thereon is a roller coaster ride of unusual events with twists and turns at every stage.
Priyadarshan draws inspiration from R.K. Laxman's Malgudy Days this time. Although the premise of Malamaal Weekly is interesting and the film unfolds at a rapid pace, the problem lies in the fact that Priyadarshan merges a numbers of tracks with the main plot and in order to do justice to every sub-plot, the film becomes one lengthy exercise. In fact, had the director focused on the main plot, the outcome would've been different from what it currently is.
Priyadarshan [he has been credited with the story and screenplay] takes a similar route that he adopted for his previous works, meaning throw logic to the winds, leave your brains at home and don't wear your thinking caps while watching the film. And though a number of sequences have that unmistakable stamp Priyadarshan is famous for, the excitement is shortlived. Partly because the unnecessary tracks throw a spanner and partly due to the excessive length.
As the director of Malamaal Weekly, Priyadarshan isn't in complete form either. Erratic writing takes a toll on the product and you feel that the film bears an uncanny resemblance to Hera Pheri especially. Even if you compare it with Priyadarshan's earlier works, Malamaal Weekly is a step down.
Music -- there's just one song in the film [filmed on Raakhi Sawant] -- and it's strictly okay. Cinematography [Sameer Arya] is of standard. Dialogues are the highpoint of the enterprise. In fact, a few one-liners have the required punch to create the desired impact. Editing is loose. The film can easily be trimmed by 15-20 minutes.
Paresh Rawal gets a meaty role in every Priyadarshan film and Malamaal Weekly is no exception. Paresh delivers a performance that is bound to be talked-about in days to come. He is in terrific form. Om Puri plays to the gallery with flourish, thereby proving his versatility yet again. Ritesh doesn't get much scope, but proves his mettle in the engagement sequence. Reema Sen doesn't get scope at all.
Asrani is excellent. He gets the maximum footage after Paresh and Om and it's indeed a pleasure to watch the veteran in great form. Rajpal Yadav is efficient. Sudha Chandran enacts her part with conviction. Shakti Kapoor gets limited scope. Rasika Joshi is perfect. Malayalam actor Innocent is fair. Arbaaz Khan [sp. app.] leaves a mark.
On the whole, Malamaal Weekly is an ordinary fare. It has moments, but not enough to create a lasting impression or compelling one for a repeat viewing. At the box-office, the business will range from decent [Mumbai and select multiplexes of metros] to below average.
Teesri Aankh - The Hidden Camera