Ajagajantharam Malayalam Movie Review
Tinu Pappachan's Ajagajantharam is a big action film set in a temple festival environment where characters fight for no reason. In Kerala's annual temple festival known as pooram, people usually get into a brawl just because they love doing it. In real life and the movie, these fights occur between outsiders and insiders. They do not usually believe in negotiating their differences over a cup of tea. Like the festival itself, the fight is also an annual ritual, which kind of makes the festival complete (pun intended).
The temple festival idea lends itself well to a mass commercial film, but Ajagajantharam is silly. The atmosphere that Pappachan creates with the help of his cinematographer Jinto George and music director Justin Varghese puts us right in the thick of the action. The setting is believable and gives us the old memories of watching a pooram festival unfold.
Remember, most temples in Kerala have been canceling their annual festival plans due to coronavirus. So, Ajagajantharam is the closest it can get to capturing all the pooram madness on screen. The elephants. The mahouts. The line of trees with oil lights. The drunkards and the freak person who sit in a corner and blabber away endlessly. The art troop that comes late to their performance art show and creates chaos. You can see all of those usual pooram elements in Pappachan's film.
But Ajagajantharam is a more great piece of logistics and a sensory experience than a movie. It is about the events that happen over the course of one night in a big venue with a large gathering. The nocturnal frames, the camera angles as well as the use of lighting and music create an authentic cinematic experience on screen. Making this kind of film requires great crowd-control expertise. But the movie does not quite work because it lacks substance.
For such an action film to work, we must feel the emotions of the characters who are involved in the brawl, or some tension should precede each set-piece. Here, you do not feel their emotions, and the movie has little tension. Besides, writers Kichu Tellus and Vineeth Vishwam offer us little in the way of plot. I am not saying that you need a story to propel a narrative. A film can also work as a concept-driven experience if the concept and characters are strong enough. That is not the case here.
The movie has a long number of actors that exceeds even Angamaly Diaries. Antony Varghese, Kichu Tellus, Sabumon Abdusamad, Arjun Ashokan and Jaffar Idukki play the characters with more screen space. The performances from the actors are all well and good, and none of them plays fleshed-out characters. Besides, when the action stops after the intermission point, the screenplay drags.
Now, that is not to say the film is a total write-off. I like what Pappachan does with an elephant here, which again involves a remarkable level of craft and control over logistics. If all you want from a movie is 2 hours of non-stop action, you may enjoy a lot of Ajagajantharam. It is just that I have not enjoyed the movie.