We know that every creative process is an exercise in self- indulgence; the degree may vary from person to person. But rarely do you come across something that indulges in "intellectual exhibitionism".
Yes, you read it right; while watching the Malayalam film Pakal Nakshatrangal, you feel that the team behind it is interested in just showing off their intelligence without bothering to make an "intelligent" film. They dabble in esoteric themes like mysticism, sexual freedom, death, the after-life and such things, as an act of show off. It is written by Anup Menon and Rajeev Nath is credited with the concept (whatever that means) and direction.
The story begins with a news item of the demolition of the Daffodils, an erstwhile cultural hub where creative people met and discussed their work. The most prominent among them was filmmaker Siddharthan (Mohanlal), fondly called Sidhan, which can loosely be explained as a genius. He used to develop his scripts there and would meet his Thadi-Jubba-Sanji kind of friends here for drinks and other pleasures. Sidhan had mysteriously died by falling from the terrace of the building. It was not proved whether it was an accident, suicide or a murder.
So, his foster son Adi (Anup Kumar), himself a renowned writer, whose previous book Labyrinths of Sanity (for pun's sake, it should have been Labyrinths of Insanity!) was short listed for Man Booker Prize, embarks on a mission to write a biographical novel. In fact it is about Siddharathan's relationship with various women as Siddharathan is a womaniser. Womanising is presented as a "mystical quality in a creative genius about his father in addition to solving the mystery behind his death.
He completes the book in two weeks flat and requests his wife (played by Lakshami Gopalaswamy) to appraise it as a reader and a critic. The narrative unfolds in anecdotal flashbacks as the writer and his wife discuss the book. The string of people he meets, his father's friends, his colleagues, the suspects and even the police officer who had investigated the case.
The interaction between the writer and his wife becomes interesting sometimes. Like when she asks him about the character who could speak with dead souls (played by Suresh Gopi) who had acquainted his father, and why he was dropped midway after giving him a good build-up. In a way this device helps the writer to give excuses for the loopholes in the story).
For Mohanlal, the role of Siddharathan is a cakewalk; we have seen him in such roles many a time. But, still his spontaneity and sparkle leaves us charmed.
Suresh Gopi oscillates between being funny and being serious as the necromancer. What becomes unintentionally funny is the fact that he is depicted as a person having speech impairment, who has to put a gadget on his larynx to get the words out. The gadget suspiciously looks like an electronic razor!
Anup Menon tries hard to be convincing as an intense writer who wishes to dig into his father's relationship with various women. But, somehow he comes across as pretentious.
Pakal Nakshatrangal no doubt tries to recreate the intellectual vigour Malayalam cinema had in the eighties but falls terribly short.