Expectations are a key parameter when it comes to evaluating any film. Ganagandharvan, directed by comedy artist Ramesh Pisharody and starring Mammootty in the lead is likely to exceed your expectations—provided you go in without any in the first place. The veteran superstar’s choice of films in the ‘family drama’ genre hadn’t been encouraging of late, and this film bucks that trend to some extent.
Ganagandharvan tells the tale of gifted singer Ullas (Mammootty), who is an experienced lead vocalist of a small-time ganamela troupe that performs in local functions across Kochi. The film starts with him getting arrested by the cops. Switching to flashback mode, we are told how he dotes on his wife Mini (Vanditha) and daughter Soumya. Ullas’ life revolves largely around the troupe, stage programs and his family. Everything seems perfect until he is forced to involve himself in an activity that turns his life upside down.
Director Ramesh Pisharody made his name initially as a stand-up comedian. Having also worked as a comedian in several films and TV shows like the popular Badai Bungalow, which he co-hosted with actor Mukesh, this is his second directorial venture after Panchavarnathatha featuring Jayaram and Kunchacko Boban in lead roles. The one common factor in both films is the generous dose of comedy injected in these films. For a man of Pisharody’s background, this doesn’t come as a surprise; not all the jokes work—some do fall flat—but the key in pulling a humour-laced narrative forward is ensuring that the screenplay doesn’t lag. Pisharody, who has also co-written the script along with Hari Nair, keep the gags coming at a rapid pace.
At a runtime of roughly 140 minutes, Ganagandharvan is cut appropriately and Lijo Paul’s editing deserves credit. It is from the pre-interval sequences that Ganagandharvan really hits its straps, and the second half doesn’t let the film down. As a gifted vocalist who couldn’t make it big in life, Mammootty puts in a good performance. It’s not a challenging role by any stretch of imagination and his character arc has emotions that he has handled aplenty in his career already. Still, Mammootty ensures that he doesn’t seem jaded or repetitive. The talented Manoj K Jayan gets a significant role after a while as his sidekick.
The other notable performer is Suresh Krishna, who gets reasonable screen time including a sequence at the back end where he brings the roof down. Among the female characters, Athulya Chandra gets a strong role and she performs her part well. The one major negative though, is the production values, which make it, look like an outdated film. It could be down to budget constraints and Alagappan’s cinematography doesn’t quite hit the bulls-eye. In today’s tech-savvy world, it isn’t asking for too much to make a film that’s visually pleasing.
Pisharody’s direction is also patchy and clearly, this is a department where he is a work-in-progress. As we saw with fellow comedy artist Kalabhavan Shajon (who debuted as a director recently with the Prithviraj-starrer Brothers Day), directing skits on a stage and piloting a film are completely different propositions. With time, Pisharody (and indeed Shajon) could improve their skillsets as directors.
Despite the dated feel and old-school production values, Ganagandharvan ends up as an entertainer with sufficient ingredients in it for a one-time watch. The clean humor should appeal to the family audiences. If you go in with zero expectations, you are bound to be pleasantly surprised by the output, like I was.