Dasharatham was a watershed in the history of Malayalam movies for various reasons — most notably for its handling of a practically distant theme of the times. What gave the movie its epoch-making status is that in lacing together the stories of markedly different characters, it never took a stance of its own.
It’s a movie that presents viewers with a situation rich in chances to take sides: A once-dissipated, now reforming wealthy man in his 30’s is embroiled in a legal battle with a surrogate mother over the custody of newborn. While the question of who’s right and who’s wrong may resonate in your head, movie isn’t too concerned about establishing who’s right or wrong. It is more interested in exploring whether people involved in the story are acting in accordance with their better selves. It puts the characters in their most vulnerable situation. You’ve looked at it from both sides. And you suddenly realize that it is perhaps one of those difficult situations that could only be settled with an act of altruism on either side.
Dasharadham is a film full of spirited characters brought to life by a spellbinding screenplay from Lohithadas. These are simple but maturing characters who surprise us with the profundity of their dialogues. You find that his characters are not just there to make conversations, but to reveal details about themselves. And in the process you can watch them becoming self-aware of their own motives. The film stars Mohan Lal as Rajiv Menon, a work-shy, self-indulgent orphan who wants to live a life free of responsibilities. He cites the institution of marriage as the biggest threat to his carefree lifestyle. A short-lived but meaningful bond with his friend Scariah’s son prompts him to entertain the prospect of adoption.
In an inebriated chatter with Scariah, Rajiv asks him for his son. Scariah rejects his proposal, and proceeds to lecture Rajiv about his inability to understand the value of relationships. As drunk as he is, Scariah is right on the mark with his observation. An uncared for and parentless life has rendered Rajiv incapable of empathizing with people in relationship. Very few actors could have given more meaning to the quirks and foibles of Rajiv than Mohanlal. Among many things, this story is about a grown up man who doesn’t want to be a grown up, but feels confident enough to take up the challenges of fatherhood. A dejected Rajiv is given new lease of life when his doctor friend, Hameed (Sukumaran) tells him about having a child through Artificial insemination.
Murali plays the bedridden once-famous footballer who is clinging to the hope that he can someday get back to his winning ways. He needs kidney transplantation, and his faithful wife Anna (Rekha) is determined to fund his operation by giving birth to Rajiv’s child through artificial insemination. The couple gets the much-needed money, and Rajiv gets his baby. But things are not that straightforward. As the film progresses, main characters undergo attitudinal change. There are twists, change of hearts, and dialogues that delve into the pain of separation. Little did Rajiv know that what was conceived of as a ploy to circumvent the constraints of marriage could end up changing his life forever — for better or worse.
But the movie isn’t just about a series of events leading up to a situation. It’s full of excellent performances. And these are life-affirming performances that don’t hinge on the comfort of melodrama. Mohanlal delivers a performance of a life-time. At times in the film, it looked like he used his idiosyncratic acting to elevate sequences beyond their predefined atmosphere. A case in point is the sheepish smile on his face when Kaviyoor Ponnamma kisses the baby in his hands.
As the characters grow rich in empathy, it becomes impossible for viewers to make moral judgements about them. For one thing, you see Rajiv going through personality reformation in a conscious attempt to become a caring father for his newborn. At certain points in the film you become fully convinced of this reform, and of his credentials as a potential father. But then as someone with an unfostered past, you wouldn’t expect Rajiv to deny his son the warmth of mother’s love.
A part of you wants him to realize that all his wealth is no match for the inextinguishable love of a mother. At the same time, a part of you sees his reformative nature, and wants to give him a shot at fatherhood. Sibi Malayil’s movie makes you contemplate these two possibilities, and it’s no mean feat. The film score from Johnson Master is tinged with a wistful melancholy that soaks up the pathos of characters.
Director- Sibi Malayil
Screenplay – A. K. Lohithadas
Music- Johnson Master