It takes a while for the first frame of Raj Nair's 'Punyam Aham' to unfold on screen. What follows is a long, tiring expedition of Narayanan (Prithviraj); a dejected man in his mid twenties who digs back to his roots, on an identity quest.
The film brings to mind a pertinent question as to what the purpose of cinema is. I am with those that believe that it should probably at least attempt to communicate with someone who decides to watch it. This is precisely the reason why someone holds a show of his film for an audience. Hence, sans this very important communique, it resembles a sputtering worn-out radio that lies in a deserted ditch, with those occasional crackling sounds breaking the silence around.
The issues that bring about this total rupture in communication are several. The scenes for one are entirely disjointed. Most of the time they have no rational continuity, and seem to be placed together simply because they have to be somewhere. The film on the whole adopts a manner that pooh-poohs explanations and none of them are offered whatsoever.
Evidently, the questions that it leaves behind are numerous. I am not suggesting that the film should provide answers to the same, but when there are merely questions and not even a remote illumination in sight, I presume that something is wrong. The exasperation is bound to creep in, since you get tired of holding the puzzle pieces for a long time, and finally realize that they were never expected to fit in.
There are several instances when Jayasri (Samvritha) comments that she doesn't understand most of what Narayanan is telling her. Obviously she has got company, since most of his utterances are lost on us as well, and there is very little that we can make out from his extremely puzzling statements. After a while, one just loses interest, having taxed his brain beyond limits to make sense out of this conversation that appears to be happening on another plane altogether.
Perhaps it has important things to say, but there is very little of it on show, except a few bizarre touches here and there, that unfortunately do not even leave a mark. The dialogues often appear synthetic. I shudder to think that there are people around, who actually speak the way they do in this film. I mean, you sit around a table having dinner with your family, and start uttering tailor cut sentences like the curtain has just gone up and you are on stage.
Prithviraj must obviously have found some promise in what the film offered; indeed, Narayanan is a far cry from the stereotypes that he gets to play in the commercial format. But I guess, he deserves much more than what he gets to chew here. Samvritha delivers the essential mood of confusion in her portrayal.
Punyam Aham puts in a little bit of everything, be it philosophy, activism or satire, and forgets to stir them up. Sometimes hysterical and sometimes too soundless, it hence falls short both as advocacy and amusement.