'Spirit' is a challenging examination of the psyche of a population that has sadly started mistaking self abuse for pleasure. In doing so, it flashes light on unexplored corners, where you get to see a highly literate state in the country crawling on all fours, stoned beyond recognition and hooched up to the hilt!
Raghunandan (Mohanlal), has for a while, been quite a lot of things rolled into one, but at the moment, he is quite renowned as the host of a television show, that goes by the name 'Show the Spirit'. Apart from being a chronic alcoholic, Raghu happens to be a divorcee as well, whose drunken stupor does not even let him realize that his life is a real, shoddy mess.
One of my favorite scenes in the film would be one that is casually wedged into it, as if it has always been meant to be there. Raghu, meeting up with his orally and aurally challenged son, finds himself at a loss to communicate with the teenager, since the sign language totally escapes him. He watches helplessly, almost repentantly, as Alexey flies into his son's world through gestures, and the two of them bond together as a dad and son.
The man who is described as a miserable narcissist, one of a rare breed, seemed to me on a self-destructive trail, with perhaps little time to make sense of where he is headed. Death and impending illness understandably would not be a matter of grave concern for a person like him, and it takes the bestowal of responsibility on his evasive shoulders to make him want to live again.
The life that seeps back into Raghunandan's being as the bottle drops down from his shaky hands, is one that leads him along on a quest to uncover the alcoholic psyche. To his surprise, nature that had apparently gone into hiding as he lay lost in a hazy world that seemed bereft of color, gently appears out of the shadows. The early morning sunlight that floods his face and the rain that springs out his neighbour's garden hose makes him realize what he has been losing out on, for a long time.
The two women who meet Raghunandan head on, his ex-wife Meera (Kaniha) and an acquaintance Supriya (Lena), are both survivors in their own right. Meera has daringly decided to leave a daunting past behind and has survived a miserable marriage, while Supriya has emerged a victor having struggled through the casualties imposed on her by a tough childhood.
'Spirit' however also witnesses the reins slipping away from the director's hands, albeit a few times, which had almost seemed impossible, with all his recent films having hit the bull's eye, one after the other. The focus on a noble intention is what comes to his rescue on occasions as these, as everything eventually falls back in place. But yes, Ranjith does have a close shave this time around.
The reason for this is a hangover, ironically in-keeping with the basic theme and title of the film, that 'Spirit' sports through out. Raghunandan does strike you as Pranchiyettan who has drowned himself in drinks, minus the swagger of course, though the adorable charm of the former is replaced by a refined polish in the latter. Meera looks almost a reflection of Padmasree (in Pranchiyettan and the Saint) and quite significantly the plumber (Nandu) is a replica of the abusive father (Biju Menon) in Pranchiyettan and the Saint.
As is usually the case, the script does not tower over the actors in this Ranjith film. On the contrary, it is the actor who amazes us time and again in 'Spirit', and Mohanlal delivers a top notch performance as the man who remains plastered for a greater part of his waking time. He elevates even the synthetic climactic scenario to an almost believable level and even provides the film with the much needed emotional continuity at times. His outstanding sloshed act is what truly saves the spirit!
Lena is another actor who delivers the goods with aplomb in 'Spirit', and as the IPS officer, she is a blast. Nandu excels in the role of a life time, even as veteran actors as Thilakan and Madhu are meted out a raw deal when it comes to the roles that they play. I couldn't have enough of those delightful tunes composed by Shahabaz Aman, which are truly intoxicating in their own right; a truly exhilarating sensation that no spirit can perhaps offer.
'Spirit' is a turbulent watch that is bound to clamor for your attention. What makes it endearing is the realization that it offers, that the human spirit forever holds a chance to be elevated to a life of light and hope.