Rajeev Nath's 'Pakal Nakshatrangal', for all its verbose intentions of sketching the human plight has a faintly perplexing and forbidding oddness to it. In an effort to be, in the protagonist's own words, 'shockingly original', 'it takes us on an exploration into a man's past, undertaken by none other than his own son. The man obviously had a 'way with women' and the son admits of deriving a sort of vicarious pleasure of delving under his dad's bed sheets.
The essential premise might be the mystery surrounding the film maker's death, but the narrative sags big time, with plenty of digressions and detours that ironically darts digs aplenty at pseudo intellectualism and all that. It does seem at a time, that there are quite a few notes to be sent across, be it on the vindictiveness involved in film journalism, the other side of the casting couch, or the caste politics in the movie industry that concerns an actor in particular. There's nothing wrong of course in all these, except that these remain purely personal messages that do not in any way further demand an involvement from the observer.
With the inquiry mode in full swing, it was almost impossible not to go back in time, to the dramatic nuances of 'Kariyilakaattu Pole' or the gripping intrigue of 'Lekhayude Maranam oru Flashback' or even the artful simplicity of 'Utharam'. The door that opens out into deeper and more meaningful issues in life in all these films, creaks open just a wee bit in 'Pakal Nakshatrangal', before it slams shut once again. There is not much reference to style or form, which becomes evident as we come across shots of a mansion being demolished interspersed with those of a girl pulling apart building blocks during playtime.
There are random references to sexual freedom, perversions and hypocrisy even. Fair enough, this might be a welcome rebellion against the shackles that had bound down Malayalam cinema for long. Perhaps there's a brazenness when it comes to sex in the film; an indifference that could have been even more engaging if it hadn't appeared so imposed. There's a 'We need to stun you out of your bloody wits' kind of feel that propagates through out, that paradoxically serves as a shock-absorber. Shock for shock's sake, as they call it.
Death lingers about in 'Pakal Nakshatrangal' from the very first frame to the last. The man imploring his women to help him get on with his end, is reminiscent of Ramon Sampedro played to perfection by Javier Bardem in the Alejandro Amenabar classic 'Mar Adentro'. And in both the films, the final push arrives, and only love remains.
There are occasions when an actor tosses out a folly associated with a character with ease, and takes upon himself the task of setting things straight. Sidharth is undoubtedly no tough climb for Mohanlal, and hence the immense facility with which he works up a genuine charm is astonishing. Suresh Gopi in a tremendously ill-conceived 'I see dead people' role is slightly awkward and disappears as abruptly as he had appeared.
Streaks of a confession could be inferred when Adi (Anoop Menon) admits that he so badly wants his writing to work. "I don't want this to fail, which is the reason I've been putting this off for long..," he sighs, which was the finest moment for me in this entire film. Moving particularly away from the hang-ups of it all, Adi Sidharth though momentarily, flashes a coarseness, a vulnerability that makes him downright human. For once, he steps down the pedestal and touches ground. For once, he becomes you and me.