Director Madhav Ramadasan has come out with a tale immersed in emotion and inspiration for all. It has a strong essence of drama laced with symbols of marginalisation when one tries to enter the mainstream with his skills. Chess is a trope as well as a riveting element in this familiar tale of 'Ilayaraja' that highlights the attitude of modern society. Standing on the brink of a hammy milieu, the survival occurs purely due to some arresting performances.
This is the story of a poor family living in a ramshackle house-like structure near Thrissur town. Vanajan, played by Guinness Pakru, is eking out a livelihood by selling peanut in the town with the help of his two children. He has also to look after his ailing wife Panku (Siji R Nair) and father-in-law Ganapathy (Harisree Ashokan). Quite often the dwarf-sized Vanajan is getting threatened by money lender Mathai, played by Anil P Nedumangad, for not repaying the money that he borrowed.
Once Mathai vandalises Vanajan's house situated near a railway track. The cruel usurer then sees a brilliantly arranged chess board in the house. An avid chess player, he is impressed by the talent of Vanajan's elder son Subramanian, essayed by Master Aadith. Mathai challenges Vanajan's son to vie against his son in a chess competition to write off his debts. The match changes the future of Subramanian.
The theme echoes a trite premise as 'Ilayaraja' unfolds the emotional portrayal of the marginalised section of society. The array of scenes that establish Vanajan's life sometimes drags, demanding a tight pruning of scenes. But still, Madhav Ramadasan has managed to infuse some captivating moments when the talents of Subramanian and his sister Ambili (Baby Ardhra) are unveiled before the world.
Scenarist Sudeep. T. George, who is also a journalist, delineates the growth of the story with the aid of chess and spelling bee competition. The slice of realism is apparent when the attitude of the private school management and the upper class towards talented children from a backward class is revealed. Chess trainer Muneeb (Deepak Parambol) realises the talent of Subramanian and tries to hone his skills.
'Ilayaraja' showcases the familiar tale of achieving success against all the odds. Despite its dramatic presentation, the life of peanut seller Vanajan and his family grabs the attention due to impressive performances. The innocence and haplessness of the children fulfil the half purpose. Aadith and Ardhra are really capturing the scenario by turning themselves as the cornerstones of the movie, which is also well supported by composer Ratheesh Vega.
Guinness Pakru aka Ajayan reinvents himself with a touching performance even though he is on the threshold of emotional terrain. Vanajan knows his limitations and he tells his mind to refrain from creating waves of joy when luck strikes his son in the form of chess. The subjective movements of Pappinu's camera depict the real hustle and bustle of Thrissur town.
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