Parole movie review:This Mammootty starrer could have been so much more
India has rarely seen a full-fledged prison drama. While Hollywood has classics such as Shawshank Redemption or In the Name of the Father, cinema in India is often shy of making this genre, instead peppering it with family drama, revenge and what have you. What is left – in the end – is a brew so unappetizing that you, as audience, are afraid of sampling it.
That, to a large extent, is what ails Mammootty’s Parole. The film – as its name suggests – is about a prisoner who is a victim of the circumstances. Mammootty’s Alex has been behind the bars for over eight years and is considered a model prisoner now. He is calm under the pressure exerted by prison life and assists the jailer in his everyday duties. There is only one thing that is keeping him going – upcoming parole when he will be allowed to leave prison for a few days to go and meet his son.
The film opens well enough as we meet Alex, the new jailer and the rag-tag bunch around the prison. Along with the hardened criminals, we meet people who are in jail for no fault of theirs. The first 30 minutes of the film goes into establishing the characters and what goes on in a prison cell. A man who harasses prisoners, Bullet Raghav, emerges as the obvious bad guy.
As you are wondering what will happen next, Raghav is found sexually assaulting a young prisoner and Mammootty unleashes his inner hero. The sedate everyman turns into an action hero and the prison drama goes downhill from there. We are thrown a flashback to explain it all: we meet Alex, a teenager who learns Communism at his father’s feet. Once his father passes away, he takes over as the leader of the party to help people. There is a villain in the film, Sudarshan, who doesn’t like Alex helping the people he would rather exploit. This enmity leads to Sudarshan befriending the husband of Alex’s half-sister, Katherine’s (Miya George), Varghese. Sudarshan manipulates Varghese into giving a false statement which influences Alex’s own son to call him a murderer.
As we return to the present, we hear Mammootty get a parole finally.
As he is set to leave, the inmates celebrate the moment as if they were getting to see their family. Some feel left behind, others want Alex to check up on their family too, and yet again, we see the potential. However, by going the family drama route, director Sharrath Sandith has lost an excellent opportunity. Even as he the camera veers away from the prison and the plot moves on to depict Mammootty returning to his village, there is a sense of loss.
By introducing a conflict – Alex’s son Vincent is accused of murder- the director has tried to keep the audience engaged in the second part. This works in parts because, more than the case being solved, we see the ‘mahan’ avatar of Mammootty who makes it all go away for the sake of his. How he did this is no surprise.
As the film comes to an end with the son realizing his mistakes and reuniting with his father, we are wary because this is what we expect of the television soaps in India, not movies. The formulaic plot of father does all for son is a trope we do not want repeated.
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