I should admit that 'Urumi' is but anything that I expected it to be. For one, it isn't a historical per se, and this leaves its makers with plenty of space to explore into the possibilities of narrating a fictional tale that could expediently be wedged into a fixed point along the timeline, somewhere around 1500 AD.
Its here that we get to see Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar (Prithviraj) roving the coastal terrains of Kerala, with a golden Urumi to severe off Vasco da Gama's (Robin Pratt) much-prized head. It's been a couple of decades since Kelu and his Urumi have been lying in wait; to be more precise, ever since as a young boy, he had seen his courageous dad Chirakkal Kothuwal (Arya) meeting a valiant death at the hands of the Portuguese Viceroy.
The cinematic yarn that Sankar Ramakrishnan has woven across history and fiction, interspersing facts and fantasy proves that the striking debut in 'Island Express' was no flash in the pan. There is a further link that he draws up between events disjointed by a few centuries, with a subtle implication that mankind remains in essence the same, even as time races forward with no intention to turn back whatsoever. The screenplay is remarkably taut and the dialogues crisp and absolutely crunchy.
The warrior saga that is narrated to a generation that has just tossed yet another beer can into the bin, offers a striking study in contrast, and in the process does nothing to belittle them. On the contrary, when Krishnadas (Prithviraj) appeals to the MNC that has come up with a lucrative offer to claim his ancestral property to give them another chance, we know that Kelu Nayanar can now rest in peace. Five hundred years later, the legacy isn't dead as yet, the heritage is still in tact.
Santhosh Sivan's Kerala is a swampy land that conceals fine greenery in all forms beneath its contours. It's mistier than is usual, and is soggy throughout. The coconut palms have given way to a denser vegetation that makes wading through it an uphill task. Water pervades human lives in all forms, be it the sea that draws alien sailors to its shores or the rain that sprouts new lives all over it. The gorgeous design and the finely tuned quality in imagery should make 'Urumi' one of the best stylized visual extravaganzas ever shot in Malayalam.
This visual panache that is exceptional retains an aura that could easily be associated with an unreachable past; a past that is heartily revered and yet one that remains so mysteriously distant. Sankar Ramakrishnan cautiously places the supporting characters all around Kelu, and at times the screen looks flooded with them. Yet there is an individual streak that runs through each one of them, that simply doesn't let them stray away and be a mere embellishment.
For instance there is Vavvali (Prabhudeva) who draws young Kelu away to a fresh start; far away from a shore of corpses. They remain together through thick and thin, and soon find their destinies inseparably intertwined. And there is the Muslim warrior princess Arackal Ayesha (Genelia D'Souza) whom we are told had slain twenty nine Portuguese men who had attempted to outrage her modesty. She had left the thirtieth one alive, to retell her story to the rest.
The phantasmagorical elements that creep into the film tantalize with the slow revelations that they make. There is Makkom (Vidya Balan) whom Kelu and Vavvali encounter on their way, in whom Sankar has seamlessly merged Greek mythology into a traditional deity. The Delphian Orcale finds an expression through the Devi here; Makkom mystifies the male duo, and through a dance recital prophesies the future.
The reins of power politics are offered to a highly effeminate Chenichery Kurup (Jagathy Sreekumar), who quite obviously has the Chirakkal Thampuran (Amol Gupte) swinging to his tunes. Kurup later extends his epicene charms to the Thampuran's heir Bhanu Vikraman (Ankur Sharma) as well, before relinquishing his Brihannala role once and for all.
Prithviraj as Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar fits the role to a T, and there is no way in which you could refute the humongous efforts that he has taken as an actor to infuse life into the gallant warrior. He mixes up heavy doses of clout and charisma in his depiction of Kelu Nayanar, and comes up with a feat that is nothing short of smoldering. The beautiful Genelia slickly darts daggers from her expressive eyes, and her astonishing agility adds on a glittering impudence to her portrayal of Ayesha. Other noteworthy performances are delivered by actors as Jagathy, Prabhudeva and Amol, and who could forget the irresistibly attractive Nithya Menon as Chirakkal Bala?
The musical score by Deepak Dev is engaging as much as it is inspiring; it brilliantly becomes one with the tale being told, never for a moment overriding it. Anal Arasu deserves a pat on the back for some very realistically choreographed action sequences. Sreekar Prasad has done a crisp job at the editing table as well.
Urumi is a real massive, sweaty film that pumps oodles of testosterone on to the screen. It's a majestic cinematic adventure that is entertaining to the core. The story is timeless, the images magical, the acting solid, the script first-rate, the romance delightful, the action deadly and the energy raw - in short, the kind of film that one loves to see, and then animatedly write about.