Blessy, who earlier gave us Kaazhcha and Thanmathra, now amazes and impresses us with Palunku, his latest offering. While the first half of the film sometimes leaves us wondering as to what the film is all about and whether Blessy's career graph is going for a dip, the post-interval section simply leaves us spellbound and exclaiming that Palunku is Blessy's best till date. The film has outscored Kaazhcha and Thanmathra, subject-wise and treatment-wise, though it may perhaps not be a crowd puller or appease die-hard fans of lead man Mammootty.
Palunku tells the story of an industrious farmer Monichan and his family, which consists of his wife Susamma, and his daughters Geethu and Neethu, whom he lovingly calls 'Ponnu' and 'Kilunthu'. Monichan is happy with his life as a farmer and loves his family, his profession, nature and the people around him.
At a juncture in his life, he is forced to take his daughters to a school in the town, simply because the school in his village cannot accommodate his elder daughter, who is in fifth standard, as there are not enough students to run classes. Thus Geethu and Neethu join an English medium school. Monichan brings the children to school every morning and hangs around in town till evening to take them back.
In the course of this routine, Monichan gets close to Soman Pillai, a shrewd lottery agent, who knows all short-cuts to earn money. Soman Pillai becomes Monichan's advisor. Monichan buys a bicycle and the father and the daughters now travel to town and back on the bicycle. In the meantime Monichan joins a class conducted for elders and starts learning to read and write Malayalam as well as English. A minor accident makes Monichan shift over to the town along with his family.
Once in town, Monichan finds himself entrapped in a vicious circle. He, with all help from Soman Pillai, begins to tread on the wrong path, lending out money, and doing things not entirely above board. His life changes slowly. He is no more the naive farmer he used to be. Even his wife has changed. She spends her time watching soaps on TV and dreaming about modern household amenities. But fate has something else in store for them.
Mammootty gives a stellar performance as Monichan and he proves that he is just irreplaceable as far as such roles are concerned. New girl Lakshmi Sharma as Susamma is a good choice. The children Nazrin (as Geethu) and Niveditha (as Neethu) have done full justice to their roles. Jagathy Sreekumar as Soman Pillai and Nedumudi Venu as the teacher are quite impressive. All the others in the cast too have done well.
Technically the film is superb without the cinematographer (Santhosh Thundiyil of Krish fame) or the editor (Raja Muhammed) having to indulge in any gimmicks. The songs too jell with the theme and the situations. The star of the film however, is the director himself. Blessy has done an excellent job with the script as well as the direction.
Every element finds its way into the film - irony, allegory, sentiment, and humour - all in good measure without ever tending to be melodramatic or overtly sentimental. Palunku is a slice of contemporary life and has universal appeal. It is rarely that such films happen in mainstream Malayalam cinema. Hats off to Blessy for coming up with such a bold initiative without falling prey to the demands of the box office!
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