Pathinettam Padi movie cast: Chandunadh, Ahaana Krishna, Akshay Radhakrishnan, Ashwin Gopinath, Wafa Khatheeja Rahman
Pathinettam Padi movie director: Shanker Ramakrishnan
Pathinettam Padi movie rating: 2 stars
Pathinettam Padi, which means the 18th step, has a religious significance in Hinduism. The uphill trek to Sabarimala temple in Kerala is only complete when a pilgrim climbs up the final 18 steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum. The belief is the final climb helps pilgrims to undergo a spiritual cleansing, which makes them eligible to see Lord Ayyappan atop the hill.
Director Shanker Ramakrishnan, who has also written the film, has invoked this religious reference to tell an ambitious coming-of-age story. But, Shanker has clearly bitten off more than he can chew while making his first feature film. The film has a huge star cast – Mammootty, Prithviraj, Arya and Unni Mukundan. Interestingly, the biggest names of the Malayalam film industry play supporting roles in the film that is led by a slew of newcomers.
The story is set in the 1990s, and it revolves around the rivalry between two schools. The main source of bottomless hatred between the two schools in question is a classic class struggle between haves and have-nots.
The government school students are hard-working, well-meaning but ill-tempered, flawed but righteous, and represent all the honourable values of the working class. On the other hand, the students of an international school are drug abusing, tantrum throwing, disloyal bunch of spoiled brats who are synonyms for all things rotten in the capitalist society. Shanker takes a Marxist view of the relations between the opulent lifestyle and its hand in creating urban degenerates. In fact, Ashwin Vasudev, a spoiled brat from the private school gets his life together and course-corrects himself after joining the government school following a series of twist and turns.
The film is crammed with characters and subplots that leave you overwhelmed. Is this the story about Ashwin Vasudev who overcame his flaws to build a school that challenges the conventional idea of education? Or is it the story of Ayyappan, who remembers his first love after taking a bullet near his chest in a gun battle at the border? Or it must be about students who abuse drugs?
No wait, it is about Mammootty’s John Abraham Palakkal taking on the flawed educational system? Actually, it’s about everything and everyone. It is just too much. The background score of the film is also so confusing as it is hard to tell the heroes from the villains. Even the bad guys get to deliver lengthy punchlines, walk in slow motion, strike action poses and they get to do all that to composer A.H. Kaashif’s powerful orchestra and make bad look sexy.
Shanker’s Marxist views with religious connotation and his impressive visual style might have just clicked if his script had more focus in it.