Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum review: Fahadh Faasil’s spark fades, Viji Venkatesh sparkles

Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum, Akhil Sathyan's feel-good film, has some moments of warmth and tenderness, but fails to click as a whole

Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum
A still from Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum

In this season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the phrase ‘go out and express yourself” has become a stock comment in the on-field interviews of cricketers. Perhaps that expression would be fitting to describe Fahadh Faasil’s performance in the just-released Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum, where he almost reprises his character from Njan Prakashan. For Pachu — nickname for Prakash here — is almost as quirky and flawed as Fahadh’s namesake character in the Sathyan Anthikad-directed 2018 film.

Akhil Sathyan, who assisted his father in Njan Prakashan back then, helms Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum. He also does the scripting here unlike Njan Prakashan, written by ace scenarist Sreenivasan.

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The tragedy with Akhil Sathyan’s reference point is that Njan Prakashan itself wasn’t the greatest of films to emulate, despite the film turning out to be one of the highest grossers in Malayalam cinema. Sethu Mannarkkad, who bankrolled the former, is also backing Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum.

Works in parts

Somehow one always felt that Fahadh’s character in Njan Prakashan had shades of his turn in Oru Indian Pranayakadha (2013), helmed by Sathyan Anthikad himself. Whereas the Iqbal Kuttipuram-scripted Oru Indian Pranayakadha stood out for its ingenuity and refreshing characterisation of its male lead, Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum, a decade down the line, cannot make any such lofty claim. Of course, the film is entertaining in parts and there are emotional scenes that work, but it doesn’t click as a whole.

Coming back to Fahadh Faasil, the ace actor gets the leeway to ‘express himself’ here, but he comes across as a bit jaded and tiresome compared to his performance in Oru Indian Pranayakadha, or even Njan Prakashan. And he looks really emaciated here, as if in dire need of a wholesome meal, to get back to his groove. “How can someone become so reed-thin?” a fellow accompanying this reviewer to the theatre wondered aloud, as Fahadh showed up on screen.

Unwittingly, that makes his pairing with Anjana Jayaprakash somewhat disproportional, for the lack of a better word. The Dhuruvangal Pathinaru-fame actress makes her Mollywood debut as a heroine here and puts in a delightful performance. It is, however, Viji Venkatesh who steals the show, and turns out to be the most likeable character in the film. In some ways, her performance reminded this reviewer of Sasi Kumar’s in Loudspeaker (2009) for its freshness.

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Human relationships and its intricacies are the hardest to pull off on screen which Sathyan Anthikad was a master of — first as a director and later as a scenarist himself, but Akhil Sathyan probably needs to work on it a little longer to get it right. However, Akhil does seem to have his heart in the right place, as he narrates a tale of compassion and warmth, of realising one’s potential, and how good people can rub off their goodness on the most stony-hearted.

Moments of warmth, tenderness

Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum is the story of Pachu, a 34-year-old single man who runs a medical shop in Mumbai. How his life gets entangled with a kid, a teenager and an elderly lady on his way back after an eventful ‘pennu kaanal’ trip home forms the plot of this feel-good film. Some lowbrow comedy aside, Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum does conjure up some genuine moments of warmth and tenderness, which makes one sit through the film without tiring out.

The film turns out to be Sathyan Anthikad regular Innocent’s last film, albeit in a cameo role. The likes of Ahaana Krishna, Shanthi Krishna and Sruthi Ramachandran make guest appearances, too. Vineeth makes a welcome comeback to the screen after a while, along with Mukesh, as Fahadh’s father.

Paachuvum Albhuthavilakkum does try to appear progressive despite some lame attempts at humour, although it could have been shorter and crisper. Giving so much leeway to Fahadh to ‘express himself’ may not be a great idea though, as creative freedom needs to be defined rather than just letting actors loose on the viewers. Else, even someone as popular as Fahadh Faasil may be stretching things too far.