The easiest way to write a political thriller is to draw your characters from real life and to make cosmetic changes to their names. even while ensuring that viewers would easily connect them to the original people. Like the many political pot-boilers of 1990s Malayalam cinema, Varaal too sticks to this script. Whenever it tries to go beyond this, imagining the political machinations at the highest levels, the script also betrays its lack of understanding of the state’s political arena.
Much of the initial portions of director Kannan’s film are set aside for the introductions, with David John Medayil, played by scriptwriter Anoop Menon himself, getting the lengthiest of those. It begins from the mention of a ‘man in black’, amidst a sea of white-clad politicians, with various characters adding to the buildup — speaking about his growth as a businessman and politician, his way with women and shrewd political tactics — even as we get a series of silhouetted views of the hero and footage of him walking about in various countries. The only positive, perhaps, is that he is not presented as a saint.
Starring: Prakash Raj, Anoop Menon, Priyanka Nair, Madhuri Braganza
The setting is the assembly election of 2024, and David is the dark horse CM candidate of the opposition CDF, which has been out of power for ten years. CM Achuthan Nair (Prakash Raj) is still a formidable figure, but there are chinks in his armour. With the manner in which the script initially frames the rivalry between the CM and David, one would assume the entire film would revolve around these two personalities. But, Prakash Raj really has nothing much to do with the later happenings, with his character being reduced to a useful poster material for the film’s promotions.
Much of Varaal revolves around the games that David plays to stay ahead of the pack of wolves from his own party. As the tagline claims ‘the biggest trap ever laid in Kerala politics’, the centre piece of the movie is this trap, but it is not easy to guess who has laid it. This has nothing to do with the intelligence of the script, but it is next to impossible to remember the sheer number of characters that the script introduces, with each getting a few minutes of screen time. Half the characters who are introduced are later forgotten.
In the end, the film tries to make grand pronouncements against communal politics through the lines uttered by key characters, but there is nothing in the script till that point to tell us that it is actually concerned about these issues. The whole story behind the trap is a highly-convoluted one, involving even a group of terrorists, and is at times laughable.
Varaal is a slightly-more polished version of the salacious political stories that appear in gossip magazines. As a political thriller, it neither gets its politics nor the thrills right.
Varaal is currently running in theatres