Ranjith has been throwing quite a few pleasant surprises at us of late, but the big news is that he has just produced and directed the surreal 'Pranchiyettan and the Saint', which is his funniest and most pleasurable film to date. Very few films are complex and comic at the same time, but Pranchiyettan achieves this almost impossible feat by employing clever plot devices, a fresh narrative structure and a string of metaphoric scenarios.
This is not a film that tells an earth shattering story as such. Rather it's built around several small incidents that make a rich man's miserable life. Pranchiyettan (Mammootty) as he is affectionately referred to by his aides and contemporaries has everything going for him in his life, but lives every moment of it in utter discontentment.
Pranchiyettan is one of the most solid characters to have emerged from Ranjith's pen. This is not a mere pencil sketch of a pompous moneybag that the director has attempted here. Pranchi for Ranjith is more of a bow that he draws towards individuals, factions and society itself and from which he darts sardonic arrows dipped in irony and sarcasm.
It requires some real pluck to bring in chimerical elements into a narrative as this, and Ranjith does so with an amazing panache. St. Francis in an incredible avatar is who transforms this entire film into a fantastic joyride. There shouldn't be any trouble enthroning Ranjith as the harbinger of change in Malayalam cinema, and if I had one wish to make to the saint, that would be to increase the director's tribe.
The ripeness that the relationships in the film display has the trademark Ranjith stamp all over it. Let's take a look at the way the three central characters in the film interact with one another. Pranchi, Jose (Siddiq) and Omana (Khushboo) go a long way back, having been classmates at school. Pranchi and Omana even had a thing going in high school, until Jose played spoiler and broke them up. Years later, the trio live in the same city, move about in the same social circles and even get to interact with one another. Omana and Jose have got married and Pranchi still nurtures that soft corner he has always had for his first love.
But the best thing about it is that the bitterness has over the years dissolved into thin air, and the three have comfortably managed to live along with one another. In a remarkable scene, troublemaker Supru (Tini Tom) rings up Jose to let him know that Omana is on a visit to Pranchi's place. Pat comes the reply from Jose that he has known it all along and has no issues about it. Supru's rejoinder after banging the phone down in disgust about men who have started believing their wives is a holler.
The briefest of roles sometimes have the most to say. Padmasree (Priyamani), the interior decorator who paints not just his house, but also the grey walls of Pranchi's heart in white has one such story to tell. She doesn't fall head over heels in love with her savior at first sight, for she has a life to set straight first. On the contrary, she is relieved that Pranchi hasn't proposed. Currently moving ahead on a strictly-no-men track after a disastrous relationship that had left her emotionally and economically drained, Pappy casually states that she has had enough trouble with the one man in her life. No more men, she affirms, and Pranchi meekly smiles in agreement.
Almost nothing escapes from those barbs that are flit across one after the other, be it politics, religion, society or basic human nature. Satire in the film minces no words and the prickly core issues that are often left untouched, are skinned for once and laid bare under the sun. Which is why, you might love Pranchiyettan and the Saint like I did, or you might hate it, but there is no way in which you can ignore it.
Mammootty as Pranchiyettan realizes that the Thrissur dialect (which he delivers to perfection) is not the only thing that would make this character a real challenge for the artist in him. The actor plays Pranchiyettan as if he were born to do it, and the personal details that he adds to his marvelous performance makes it one of the most profound ones in his illustrious career. The supporting cast never disappoints either, be it the ravishing Khushboo or the charming Priyamani, the playful Siddiq, or the trouble maker Tini Tom, the amusing Innocent or the expressive Ganapathi, and several others.
Ranjith manages a unique mix of satire and comedy in 'Pranchiyettan and the Saint' and it's a tight ropewalk indeed for the director to juggle between fantasy and reality. In doing so he brings down heaven as close to earth and opens up a new universe before us where God and man beautifully blend into one. This is a must-watch folks. Just make sure you do not miss out on this one.