After watching "Naran", Mohanlal fans are sure to heave a sigh of relief.
The actor's fading fortunes had depressed his fans. The film gives us hope that the megastar is taking corrective action to regain his lost glory.
Directed by veteran Joshiy, "Naran" is halfway between a typical Mohanlal potboiler and an art film.
The protagonist is a henchman of the local feudal lord with his own sense of right and wrong. He is a man who can influence people with his physical power and clout.
He is the moral police and the conscience-keeper of the people. The character may sound stereotypical and predictable coming from Mohanlal, but there are subtle changes from his past avatars. A toning down of the superhuman image has worked wonders here.
The credit for achieving this miraculous feat should go to writer Ranjan Pramod. He has worked on the story in such a way as to bring the natural abilities of the actor to the fore, even while treading on the well-beaten path.
Mullamkolli Velayudhan (Mohanlal) is an orphan brought up by the good-hearted chief of the village (Madhu). Velayudhan keeps the evils of the modern world like organised crime, prostitution and even the import of substandard material from the outside world (depicted symbolically by a dubious fish seller from across the river) out of his tiny hamlet. He has even a designed a code of conduct for the local bar that has a thatched roof.
The first half of the movie moves at a very slow pace, establishing the character and the surroundings, his relationships and his lost love. But the tempo picks up in the second half to culminate in an unexpectedly exciting climax.
Even some of the supporting characters like Kelappan (played by Innocent), who is a father figure to the hero, are well rounded. But one feels sorry for veteran Madhu and actress Bhavana. They simply don't get their due in this film. Salim Kumar's mandatory presence tries to tickle your funny bone and succeeds to a certain extent.
Mohanlal's performance is close to being called impeccable. The naturalness, for which he is famous for, comes through in trickles and flows. But the actor should take care about his ever-growing, rotund frame. He looks very bulky in the vest with a protruding paunch and tattooed biceps.
Final word: director Joshiy's previous film "Mambazhakalam" had tried to revive Mohanlal's family-man image with limited success. With "Naran" he has tried to give a fillip to the actor's mass appeal.
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