Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham Malayalam Movie Review

Feature Film | UA | Action, Adventure, History, War | 3h 1min
Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham is about a rebellious warrior, who essentially fought a lone battle against the Portuguese before India's independence, and an empire's fall. The movie won a National Award for the Best Film in India but is not as good as it is cracked up to be. Watching it unfold over three hours, alongside all the marketing fuss around it over the last few days, one can only say this: how the mighty have fallen!
Dec 4, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Priyadarshan's 'Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham' is about a rebellious warrior who essentially waged a lone battle against the Portuguese in India before independence. He is a traditional movie hero, a principled man who robs from the rich to feed the poor. But he is also a wildly misunderstood man. A character describes him as a magician who does tricks in the sea. Another character wonders how a proud warrior like Kunjali could be just a fugitive. One thing we know about Kunjali Marakkar is that there is not enough historical literature on him. In that regard, he is not Pazhassi Raja.

So, writer-director Priyadarshan has taken a lot of cinematic liberties even in terms of characterization. The writer-director has fictionalized the titular character so much that he appears more of a comic book character from Indian myth than a real person from history. The writing for Kunjali Marakkar from Priyadarshan is quite generic. Excuse my pithiness here, but Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham is a film so blase that one wonders how it even won the National Award for the Best Film in India.

It is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, though. No one is here to dispute the technical brilliance of Priyadarshan's creation. The movie has a battle scene in the sea with ships that makes our jaws drop. There is a sense of character element in the battle in that it shows how the protagonist plots an attacking move against the invading Portuguese. You can sense that there are hanging wires cut out from the final edit, but it works as a piece of pure spectacle.

From a cinematic viewpoint, the editing is excellent in the movie. I liked how Priyadarshan maintains a sense of continuity in many parts of the film with edits and segues. But from a dramatic point of view, the editing makes the film appear that some individual scenes are merely sewn together without enough sense of continuity.

The screenplay is a real downer. It is unrealistic to expect all the characters to have prominence in such a large ensemble. But you at least expect Priyadarshan to give us two or three really strong characters, which he does not do here. This is where the movie falters the most. I already talked about the Kunjali Marakkar character. The quality of writing for every other character is not much different from Mohanlal's role. The best-written character and the most interesting character here is Hareesh Peradi's Mangattachan, whose job is to counsel Nedumudi Venu's Zamorin.

Another essential part of a historical film is its set of dialogues and costumes. Many lines in Marakkar are fairly authentic and sound primitive enough but some are not. One line from Mohanlal's character at a crucial point belongs more to the actor's mass action films from the 1990's or 2000's than this historical genre. I could not believe it when a character looked at a dictionary to translate the meaning of Kunjali's slang word. I can buy into this whole theory that a Malayalam to English dictionary even existed in the 16th century. But I found it unauthentic that an ancient character like Marakkar could use a more contemporary slang word.

Most of the costumes and cosmetics are appropriate for a period film. However, it seems bizarre when Mohanlal appears in a battle scene with greenish paint on his face. Perhaps the 16th century is too old to recreate in the 21st century.

When it comes to performances, too, Marakkar seems more workmanlike. Mohanlal neither embodies the character nor does justice to the historical figure. He is sometimes riveting and has a great screen presence but does not quite summon up the right emotions at the appropriate places. He cannot do a bad acting job; it is just that anything short of great from Mohanlal seems workmanlike. Siddique and especially Hareesh Peradi do a decent job of making interesting characters.

Frankly, no one has much scope to perform here. The real surprise package here is Pranav Mohanlal, who holds his own amid all these legends and does a close-up scene well. The female actors and the Portuguese in Marakkar are all mere props cut out from other films and pasted here. Keerthy Suresh looks like a million bucks and infuses a lot of charm into a princess character. I wish Priyadarshan had more to offer this supremely talented actor.

The film may not be poor but is not as good as it is cracked up to be. Ironically, Marakkar is about the fall of an empire. Having watched the film, and all the marketing hoopla around it, all one can say is this: how the mighty have fallen!

Sreejith Mullappilly



Technically well made. But story and the subplots for the conflicts are not strong. It may have worked 20 years ago. Now... Show more
Technically well made. But story and the subplots for the conflicts are not strong. It may have worked 20 years ago. Now it does not make an impact on the viewer.