Having directed a segment of the critically-acclaimed Kerala Cafe, Shanker Ramakrishnan’s independent directorial debut Pathinettam Padi is a campus film that tells the tale of friendships, loyalty, love and a lot more.
The film starts with Ashwin Vasudev (Prithviraj) and Major Ayyappan (Arya) at separate locations, recollecting their school life. While the former went to an international school, the latter studied at Government Model School, Trivandrum. The film reflects on the gulf between the two schools, the animosity between its students, the relationships that develop and the various battles that are fought.
Shanker Ramakrishnan has taken a huge risk by employing a largely amateur cast for his debut flick. But eventually, it works to the film’s advantage as the array of newcomers put on fabulous performances. Akshay Radhakrishnan, who plays the young Ayyappan, is the standout, along with the others who enact his gang members. His screen presence is a massive plus in the action sequences and high-voltage scenes.
Another other key performer in the film is newcomer Chandunath, who plays a pivotal role in the film as the hugely popular English teacher—a role he reprised from real life. Despite not getting sizable screen time, he manages to leave a mark with his eccentric-yet-endearing act. Ahaana Krishna, who plays a fellow teacher, has a brief role that doesn’t really demand much of her.
Amidst all the newbies, there are some experienced names too but none of them have meaty parts to perform. There are special appearances from Suraaj Venjaramoodu, Priyamani, Lalu Alex and Maniyanpilla Raju while Manoj K Jayan and Parvathi have extended cameos in the film. The veterans perform their parts with precision.
The film does have its drawbacks. While Ramakrishnan’s plot has promise, the screenplay falls well short of expectations. There is an air of predictability about the scripting and the pacing isn’t brisk. The depiction of the ‘poor versus rich’ battle as a clash between good and evil is as stereotypical as it comes. There is an overdose of songs too.
It’s the lead performances that hold the film together despite all these negatives. While Prithviraj, Arya and Unni Mukundan have barely much to do in their special appearances, Mammootty, in an extended cameo, manages to leave an impact. His swagger and style quotient has been utilized effectively.
The film is technically sound and Sudeep Elamon’s cinematography makes it a visual delight. AH Kaashif has done a wonderful job with the music and background score, even if the songs become speed breakers at various points in the film. The film needed some trimming and the editing by Bhuvan Srinivasan could have been tighter.
The action sequences of the film stand out. Ramakrishnan had hired a Bangkok-based stunt master Kecha Khamphakdee for the fight sequences in the film and the latter has done an amazing job with the boys. Some of the scenes look forced but the gripping cinematography and the adrenaline-pumping stunts do make up for that.
Pathinettam Padi is flawed, largely predictable and even partly clichéd. It’s neither the ideal campus entertainer nor the coming-of-age cinema that you yearn for. Yet, there is a lot of conviction in Ramakrishnan’s execution as the director and his novice cast and crew have performed admirably to make it a watchable film.
With a bit more work on the screenplay and editing, it could have turned out to be a much better film.