Malaikottai Vaaliban review: Mohanlal is backbone of this fantasy entertainer - Hindustan Times
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Malaikottai Vaaliban movie review: Mohanlal is the backbone of this fantasy entertainer

Jan 25, 2024 01:03 PM IST

Malaikottai Vaaliban movie review: There are elements that work in the Mohanlal film, and elements that clearly don’t. Expect the unexpected.

Malaikottai Vaaliban movie review: This is the first collaboration between the Angamaly Diaries director and Malayalam superstar Mohanlal and expectations ran high before the film’s release. When you go to watch a Lijo Jose Pellissery film, you must clearly set aside expectations and have an open mind. The Malayalam director is known for his unconventional cinema and Malaikottai Vaaliban is exactly that. Also read: All you need to know about Mohanlal's grand Malayalam film, Malaikottai Vaaliban

Malaikottai Vaaliban movie review: Mohanlal in a still from the Lijo Jose Pellissery film.
Malaikottai Vaaliban movie review: Mohanlal in a still from the Lijo Jose Pellissery film.

Malaikottai Vaaliban plot

Inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, this period fantasy film sees Mohanlal plays Malaikottai Vaaliban, an ageing fighter or warrior, who wanders from village to village, taking part in fights and winning accolades. In a village he halts overnight, there’s a folk dance performance by beautiful Rangapattinam Rangarani (Sonalee Kulkarni). While a potential romance erupts with Rangarani, he gets into an argument with Chamathakan (Danish Sait) over her and Chamathakan then challenges him to a fight in his village, Mangodu.

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Malaikottai Vaaliban wins the fight at Mangodu and moves on with his travels to Ambathur fortress. However, Chamathakan, who is psychotic, vengeful and seething after the loss, follows him to seek revenge. What happens next during the course of Malaikottai Vaaliban’s travels?

What works, and what doesn't

Lijo Jose Pellissery’s film is intriguing to say the least. There is no clear cut storyline and the director is in no hurry to tell the tale that has intricate layers. The drama proceeds at a slow pace with the stunning visuals by cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan breathing life into the scenes. Again, there are some scenes that spark brilliance, especially the parts where 63-year-old Mohanlal is engaged in fights showing off his excellent physical prowess and fitness levels.

These are, unfortunately, coupled with scenes that are quite tedious and lacking momentum. The first half is far more cohesive than the second half, which can leave the audience baffled. The movie ends on a very uneven keel due the jagged fantasy script that has issues right from the start. While one appreciates the director for venturing into something new, one wishes this story had been better etched out and have a more engaging factor.

Undoubtedly, Mohanlal is the backbone of the film

The movie has strong elements of Indian folk culture and brings to mind Westerns and Japanese folk and samurai culture. Even the background music has these rich cultural elements in their beats and use of instruments. Music director Prashant Pillai has superbly woven the old and the new into the music and songs that a big value add to the film. In fact, one of the song settings in the second half reminds one of the movie Sholay and the Jab Tak Hain Jaan song. The story is divided into chapters and the director has used a similar editing style that he used in his previous film, Double Barrel.

Undoubtedly, it is Malayalam star Mohanlal, who is the backbone of this film. For him to accept this role is a feather in his cap and to have delivered an excellent performance - yet again - shows how talented and dedicated he is. He is stellar especially in the fight scenes and one must laud him for this. Standup comic Danish Sait, as the baddie, has done a good job and proved he has what it takes to be a good actor. Sonalee Kulkarni is apt as danseuse Rangarani who is captivated by Malakottai Vaaliban.

Mohanlal fans would have a lot of expectations from this film but one must remember that it is a Lijo Jose Pellissery film. Called a fantasy entertainer, there are elements that work in Malaikottai Vaaliban and elements that clearly don’t. Expect the unexpected.

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