'Idukki Gold' does disseminate a heavy scent that enthralls you, and yet which is never intoxicating enough to leave you blissfully smashed.
On the verandah of St. Aloysius High School, as five young boys get ready to face the ire of their folks for having committed an unthinkable crime, one among them, Michael wonders aloud if they will ever be able to meet each other again. Thirty five years later, Michael (Prathap Pothan) returns from the Czech Republic to meet up with his estranged school mates again.
Aashiq Abu's 'Idukki Gold' tells their story - of Ravi (Raveendran), Madan (Maniyanpillai Raju), Antony (Babu Antony) and Raman (Viajayaraghavan) - and of how life had led them along diverse paths only to furnish their union yet again. As the days have given way to months, and the months to years, the spark, as Madan points out has gone missing from their lives.
It's a journey back to a childhood that had marked several firsts in their lives - love, politics and passion being just a few of them. Perched on the edge of a gigantic cavern that opens out to an endless earth, they pay heed to the statement of a visitor that there is always a first for everything. Drawing in puffs of Idukki Gold, they are induced to a world of haziness where joy coagulates with ecstasy, and where colors drip down in darker shades than ever.
I wonder if it's necessary to categorize 'Idukki Gold' as a stoner film, since it's not all about being stoned alone. Nostalgia works better on aged brains than a cloud of invigorating smoke, and each one of the men from the nameless gang, seems to have realized it. A handful of brilliant moments, a few unadulterated smiles and some jamming spikes in your heart are what 'Idukki Gold' leaves you with.
There are two women in the film - Shyamala (Sajitha Madathil) and Manju (Praseetha) - and while neither of them are offered an opportunity to flaunt their identities, Shyamala does manage to grab our attention. Refusing to move out of her husband Madan's place even after divorce, she hangs around Nellickal Gardens, candidly stating that she has nowhere else to go. With a husband who seems to prefer the emus in his courtyard to her, her marriage is far from blissful, but she makes do with whatever she has.
A story that is inundated with regrets is what Antony must have had to tell, but it's one of those accounts that are left unsaid. When asked why he is terrified of his wife, his reply is curt. On one of those rare moments, he admits with a crestfallen smile that the karate moves simply didn't work in his life. Jalaja and her unuttered chronicle leave a streak of mystery around as well.
The climax is perhaps the weakest spot of 'Idukki Gold' and as the five men cruise up the summit, the drama that unfolds spirals inevitably downward. One does not really expect the film to collapse into a deliberation on clemency, but that is precisely what it suddenly turns out to be.
Of the five major performers, Maniyanpillai Raju leads the pack, and as an easy-going and even-tempered planter, he is a blast. Prathap Pothen looks and acts every bit the NRI who has come in search of his roots, while Raveendran goes slightly over the top, living up to his nickname that unambiguously means repulsive. Especially remarkable is the comment on Babu Antony that slyly suggests of a countenance that refuses to change even at the sting of a bee. Vijayarghavan in the briefest of roles, make an impression no less.
Nostalgia and wistfulness might be an overworked theme, but Aashiq Abu's latest film covers up its obviousness for most part. Which is why, I'd say that 'Idukki Gold' does disseminate a heavy scent that enthralls you, and yet which is never intoxicating enough to leave you blissfully smashed.
2.5 out of 5 (Fairly Good)
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN:
0.0 - 1.4 : Poor
1.5 - 1.7: Poor, A Few Good Parts
1.8 - 2.3: Average
2.4 - 2.9: Fairly Good
3.0 - 3.4: Good
3.5 - 5.0: Very Good