One Malayalam Movie

Feature Film | 2021 | U | Drama, Political, Thriller | 2h 39min
Santhosh Viswanath's new theatrical film, 'One' is a novel attempt to break away from the formulaic elements of a standard Malayalam political film. It is also a film that may have worked better with a focus on characterization rather than its star treatment approach.
Mar 28, 2021 By Sreejith Mullappilly

In Santhosh Viswanath's 'One', Mammootty's CM Kadakkal Chandran goes out of his way to help a child solve a family problem. As for the CM, the matter is so trivial that it should only take a phone call to settle it. However, this is not just another chief minister. Instead, it is one played by megastar Mammootty.

Therefore, it is a must that Mammootty makes a slow-motion walk entry into the problem scene, and that he deals with the issue with a lecture on democracy. While all that heavy talk happens, I wondered whether the CM does not have bigger things to deal with most of the time. But then again, One is a strange political film that regards those kinds of actions as the CM's duties.

Many described One as a political thriller, but I did not see it that way. For me, Malayalam political thrillers have a clearly defined hero and villain. There may be a hero in this film, but it does not have a conventional villain. You could say that Murali Gopy's opposition leader character Marampalli Jayanandhan is an antagonist, but he is not a usual antagonist for a Malayalam political film.

Gopy's Jayanandhan is a scheming politician who always thinks about how to remove Chandran from the CM's seat. The early exchanges in the film between Jayanandhan and Chandran make us wonder whether One would be like old political potboilers where the hero and villain clash from start to finish. But One is more of a film with political messaging and themes, which has a disconnect to real-life Kerala politics. It is more about Chandran's idea of a highly democratic state where the voters have a bigger say in the political system.

One of Chandran's main concerns here is a proposed law that would allow Keralites to remove their own elected representatives if it is passed in the state legislative assembly. The makers spend a good part of the movie setting up the negative characters, plus showing us how Chandran goes about doing his 'duties'. Chandran may have been a fireman instead of a CM here, and it would have made little difference to this movie in that he would still be a lifesaver.

It seems that an entourage of vehicles has been following Mammotty's mass characters from the days of Pokkiri Raja to now. That said, cars have a reason to follow the megastar here. After all, he is a chief minister in this film, and he plays it with an elan that befits one. It is just that the star-trappings do not quite let us see the best of Mammotty, the actor.

Jayanandhan is the only main character in this film that you may feel belong to real-life Kerala politics. Murali Gopi essays the character with a wicked charm and control over his craft. Gopi is a brilliant performer without star-trappings, and he stays true to the character right through.

There are not many other memorable characters in the film. Some of the actors are forced into the screenplay, such as Nimisha Sajayan as Chandran's sister to name one.

As this is a political film, I expected a lot of quotable lines in it, with some amount of fire. However, Bobby and Sanjay's script is a disappointment in that regard. It is disappointing to see a political film where the protagonist says a line that echoes one of Lionel Messi's famous quotes. One is a watchable film, but you would expect more from the talented artists associated with it.

Sreejith Mullappilly