If the getup of the protagonist determined the fate of a film, then Mulla would have been one of the biggest hits of Dileep's career.
Also Read: Mulla in pix
The tinge of sarcasm is intended as the actor is known for his fetish for experimenting with his looks in every other film, so also in his latest film directed by his friend Lal Jose, which is the most daring as it is not a makeup gimmick.
Here he has come up with a bald pate and clean shaven face in the title role of a goon who has no qualms about taking lives or limbs.
The story is predictable: the transformation of Mulla (Dileep) from a sharp weapon wielding goon to a softie who can change nappies (reluctantly at first) and clean up a baby's back side under the influence of a sweet and angelic Lachchi (debutant Meera Nandan).
But the screenplay by Sindhuraj is not that simple. In the beginning it seems somewhat interesting as the story is revealed through flashbacks (maybe a hangover of Classmates to complicate the narrative). But, it does not hold our attention for long as we can guess things taking shape and in what direction they are moving.
Let me say the interesting thing first, which is Dileep's character as almost dumb and brooding angry young man. He is robbed of the vital ingredient of histrionic armoury that is, to provide comic relief with his antics. The son of a prostitute nicknamed Mulla, (named after jasmine flowers she wears in her hair), he later gets her name after she commits suicide. He is then brought up in a slum that breeds criminals.
Meera Nandan tries her best to be charming as the best of Malayalam cinema did before her. But she will need to spruce up a little before she gets noticed by Tamil filmmakers (which are what all Malayalam actresses aim at these days). Still she is good enough to fit the bill here.
Lal Jose does a fine job by shooting major portion of the film on a real train. He is the only director who makes us forget that Malayalam film industry is in financial trouble as far as the production values go.
We just wish he is cautious in selecting the subject he deals with. And, that he should stop using crass language and innuendoes to please the so-called front-benchers.
Technically, the effort put behind this film is top notch. Camerawork by Vipin Mohan and art direction by Gokul Das are praise worthy.
As far as the supporting cast goes; the ubiquitous Salim Kumar, Anoop Chandran and Suraj Venjaramoodu are all there. Another Lal Jose favourite Biju Menon does not get sidelined as Mulla's mentor and the uncrowned ruler of the slum. Young Shaiju Kurup does get noticed as villainous police officer.
If we see Mulla as a Dileep film, we can take heart that it is one of his better efforts than July 4 and Calcutta News, and a bit more cohesive than Risikan.
But Mulla may be one of the worst films of Lal Jose in his decade old career. Yes, this from the man who gave us Meesa Madhavan, Classmates, Achanurangatha Veedu and Arabikkadha.