What started out with great promises and ambition loses direction in the final fourth, and is rendered a forgettable movie by some sloppy script writing.
Soubin’s directorial debut straddles tragedy and playfulness, often refusing to be pigeonholed into a specific genre. And it is part of Parava’s appeal. The biggest joy of the movie is the experience of having a spellbinding film score, creative camerawork and perfect cast rolled into one little package. The story follows two school boys, Ichaapi and Haseeb, who are bound by their shared love of pigeons. The kids have to keep a close eye on their scheming local rivals as they juggle a school life and part-time pigeon racing career. The plot also contains a long flash back that ties up the loose ends and lays the foundation for rest of the movie.
Soubin is no doubt a brave artist who in his directorial debut does not shy away from experimentation. He is not doing it to exploit the latest buzzword in the market, nor is he trying to impress the viewers. Very few scenes I’ve seen in recent years have been more experimental and novel with creativity than those in Parava. You briefly see the happenings inside a Kitchen through the eyes of a pigeon. And more notably in a scene where, as Ichaapi leans to give his crush an unsolicited kiss, instead of employing the heart throbbing sound, soubin uses the twitter of pigeons. I felt the reverberating twitter was a symbol of love we seek in our lives. It reminds you of the times when you wish the love in your life would be as simple, irrational and impressionable as that of birds in courtship.
Shine, elder brother of ichaapi, is painted in broad strokes. We know that we’re looking at a mortally heartbroken dude, but we don’t learn about his history until halfway into the story. Story picks up pace as Ichaapi and Haseeb walk into the haunt of a gang of drug addicts. Taken aback by the encounter, Ichaapi is forced to revisit fond and not-so-fond memories. Now we discover the deal with Shane’s melancholy. An unfortunate back story involving Imran (Dulqar), Shan and Drug addicts (played by Soubin and Sreenath Bhasi) is brought to light. As though to mitigate the flashback’s effects on the larger narrative, Soubin cleverly employs some comic relief right after Ichaapu concludes the story.
Dulqar gets to play another remarkably lovable guy, but this time the glamour is tempered with a certain restraint, indicative of a more matured side of the character. Ichappu is the star of the story, but Dulqar, despite the relatively short screen time, is the soul of the movie, at least from what we’re made to believe. Movie doesn’t bother with the details of drug addicts’ background. They have no names, no conversation. They are just two scum of the earth with drug-ravaged faces, shooting up.
At times, it’s his penchant for creativity that single-handedly lifts the movie beyond its otherwise silly moments. In depicting a story of Mattancherry natives, it’s only natural for soubin, a local of Kochi, to let some of his localism rub off on the narrative. Unsurprisingly, the movie shows director’s personal sensibility in capturing the details of the pigeon race — apparently, the game cuts across all age groups in Mattanchery — Muslim community, teenage life and local friendship.
The plot development seems rather controlled, and is tinged with snappy humor one would come to associate with Soubin. It is a fun-filled movie populated by characters that easily blend into the story. Heartbreak, drug addiction, sports rivalry camaraderie, revenge — there are a handful of themes at stake. Watching the movie, some may even feel each of these motifs is worthy of its own movie. Soubin is clearly not daunted by the perceived enormity of the task. He wants to have fun as he takes these themes head on. And the result is a movie that is equal parts entertaining and unconvincing.
There are points where you wonder whether the director is serious in his thinking about weaving these themes together without undermining the core of narrative. Misgivings are confirmed. Movie loses its focus. Characters come in and go not to leave their mark but to advance the story. At the end you have a movie clutching at straws to reveal the grand meaning of it all without really making necessary efforts to connect the dots.
The film does deliver on entertainment front. It is chock-full of snappy retorts and light-hearted comedy which tick necessary boxes but nevertheless miss the mark at times. While the soul-stirring music and unorthodox cinematography combine well to keep us engaged in the narrative, they can’t keep the wheels from coming off. Main characters run out of gas one after another and plod towards finishing line. Soubin’s inexperience becomes even more evident as film shows more signs of weariness and slides into a period of creative wanderings, eventually taking refuge in some nifty camerawork.
Into the final fourth, movie loses its focus as camera unhurriedly documents one trivial detail after another in the build up to pigeon tournament. Apart from striking camera work and soul-stirring score, at this point the film offers very little in the way of substance, the type of substance Soubin tantalized us with in the first hour. It was the only time I felt movie was slightly off pace, veering off the narrative course and nearly running itself into the ground in the process. The creative energy and storytelling vigor, which shone through in the beginning, give way to predictability. But the movie finishes strongly by treating you to a stunt scene that makes for a visually life-affirming experience.