Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Release date:
Kerala: April 14, Delhi: May 11, 2018
Ramesh Pisharody

Jayaram, Kunchacko Boban, Anusree, Ashokan, Salim Kumar, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Joju George, Mallika Sukumaran    

When the most interesting part of a film is the sound of its title, it goes without saying there’s a problem.

Ramesh Pisharody’s Panchavarnathatha (Five-Coloured Parrot) is a carelessly assembled potpourri of ingredients, most of them unrelated to each other and that title itself unrelated to pretty much everything that goes on in the film. The odd part is that some individual elements in the mix have immense potential. The cast, for one. Veteran actor Jayaram is a past master at comedy, Kunchacko Boban and supporting actors Anusree and Ashokan too have solid comic timing, and Boban has such a genial screen presence that he could raise the tolerability levels of even the worst project. Odder still, some of the dialogues and situations in the pre-interval portion are genuinely funny. While putting it all together though, Pisharody rambles so inexorably and the scenes are so disconnected from each other that after a point I felt embarrassed on his behalf.

The debutant director cannot even hide behind the excuse of a terrible screenplay. He must take most of the blame in that department too since he is the co-writer of this project with Hari P. Nair.

Let me tell you the story as best as I can…



Thinking some more.

Trying to remember it.

Trying some more.

No seriously, I am not being clever here. It is truly hard to explain what Panchavarnathatha is about.

Oh okay, I got it, I got it, I know what to say. Boban plays the Kerala politician and MLA Kalesh who lacks the political acumen that made his late father a many-term MLA. His mother (Mallika Sukumaran) and wife Chithra (Anusree) are convinced he will lose his second election. To make matters worse, his closest rival (Salim Kumar) gets up to all sorts of dirty tricks during their campaign.

Somewhere in his constituency lives a mysterious man (played by Jayaram) who runs a pet shop with exotic creatures in a house in a residential locality. These include – c’mon guess – a panchavarna thatha! Applause!

After the film has wandered all over the place for what feels like forever, this enigmatic fellow becomes firmly entrenched in Kalesh’s life. Then Dharmajan Bolgatty pops up out of the blue. Then the election happens. Then Joju George pops up. Then it gets sappy. Then there is a deep message because because ergo therefore hence, you know?

At least the first half offered some laughs here and there, the second half does not have even that.

Somewhere in this mess is a kernel of an idea for a kooky comedy about a motley group of madcaps whose shenanigans throw up existential questions. Sadly, Messrs Pisharody and Nair are not cut out for the job. The direction is lax, the pacing completely off from the start and Panchavarnathatha does not settle down at any point.

Jayaram’s character wears a sacred thread across his chest, carries a rosary in his bag and says “inshallah” (god willing), which no doubt is meant to make a profound point about the secular ideals of our nation’s founding parents that are at risk from unscrupulous politicians. Whatever.

Nowhere is the film within even touching distance of the idiosyncratic tone it is clearly aspiring to achieve. This is most evident in the scene in which Kalesh and Jayaram’s character ride a horse to Kochi airport since protestors are blocking motor vehicles on the streets. In the hands of a more skilled director, this scene could have been a hoot. Here though, all I could think of was why the horse was walking with the gait of a camel and at the speed of a snail, and why a considerable part of that scene was shot in a studio and obviously superimposed on footage of fields and the city. Was permission to shoot in the city not sought, or was it sought and not given?

The title track is a foot-tapping number that has little to do with what goes on before or after it. And while I enjoyed the potshot about Malayali crookishness woven into the screenplay, what was not enjoyable was the casual inclusion of domestic violence in the film’s humourscape. Kalesh keeps threatening to beat his wife, at one point he actually pushes her off a swing and she falls on the floor, and it is all meant to be haha hehe.

Panchavarnathatha is not the first Mollywood film to treat intimate partner violence as a joke. It is hardly a consolation that it takes itself even more lightly than it takes this sensitive issue.

Rating (out of five stars): 1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
148 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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