The thin line that draws the three main protagonists in Pranayam together stretches over a time span of more than forty years. Achutha Menon (Anupam Kher) comes across his first love Grace (Jayaprada) in an elevator, forty years after they had separated. Grace has been married to Mathews (Mohanlal) for long. Much water has flowed away and many autumns have shed their leaves. And yet, when chance throws the three of them together again, fresh sprouts of memories of a withered love spring up again.
As much as it sounds romantic, the superficiality that pervades the entire film cannot be ignored in a hurry. For one, Blessy is never able to strike up a solid link between the past and the present, and though much time is spent on falling in love in the seventies, there is not much in it that suggests of an ever lasting romance. Getting wet in the rain, and singing songs on the train is almost as far as he gets.
Contrastingly, Mathews and the relationship that he shares with Grace has all the warmth of a romance that has mellowed over time. It still shows signs of blooms that are just around the corner, and time has obviously had a say on the constancy that they have arrived at. The writing fails Achutha Menon and his love miserably, while its infinitely better when it comes to Grace and Mathews.
The dialogues are a huge letdown in Pranayam, and barring a few gems that are mouthed by Mathews, there are very few instances when you listen to a line in it and a gulp escapes your throat. Like the one when Mathews says of doors left ajar, through which love seeps in unnoticed. Unfortunately such instances are few in Paranayam, and very far between.
Ironically, Mathews in a scene comments on the certainty of death, and in a compelling counsel suggests that its not a abrupt end, but rather a gradual progression towards an inevitability that lies in wait. And yet, Blessy's obsession with physical loss continues in Pranayam as well, and his story as well as its characters can't help being a part of the climatic breakdown that ensues with the demise of one of the lead characters.
The cliches that arrive bundled up as the immediate relatives of the three lead characters, mar the possibilities of the film even further. There is Suresh (Anoop Menon), the proverbial son who has been denied everything on account of a mother who had disappeared during childhood, and his emotional tussle with Grace, draws the focus further away from love, and the pangs of it.
The trio of actors who make this film worth a watch, is also the best thing about it. There are any number of occasions when the story and the situations threaten to bog them down, and they never for a moment let that happen. My favorite from among the three, would definitely have to be Mohanlal, who is remarkably brilliant as Mathews. Almost everything about his act - be it the impeccable body language or the flawless dubbing - is praiseworthy, and yet it remains one of the actor's most subdued and restrained performances ever.
Jayaprada is equally convincing as the woman caught in a quandary at a late phase in her life, and all the struggles that she goes through are evident, and the frustrations right in place. Anupam Kher, with the lengthiest of the three roles, perhaps makes a slightly less of an impression, chiefly on account of a voice that doesn't often gel with the character that he plays.
Pranayam does strain hard to achieve the nuances of an enchantingly sublime love, but ends up being a literal minded love tale, with one among the three lovers oddly left out. The chief reason you should probably watch it for then, is because it showcases three of the nation's best actors who are in supreme form.