‘Palthu Janwar’ Review: Decent Performer With A Solid Storyline

In the decades between 1930 and 1970, there was a large-scale and organized migration of Syrian Christians from central Travancore (now Kottayam district) to the Malabar region in search of fertile agricultural land. They fought wild animals and viral diseases in the hilly terrain; their sweat and resilience transformed the Malabar hinterland. Vast tracts of uncultivated land have been turned into productive fields and estates. They brought to Kannur their unique culture, religious practices, superstitions and distinct dialect. Palthu Janwar is a film set in a rural community in the Iritty region of Kannur, dominated by the migrant Syrian Christian population.

The film centers on the life of Prasoon (Basil Joseph), a failed entrepreneur in the animation business, who is coerced into accepting the position of livestock inspector – offered to him out of compassion – in Iritty. His workplace would throw challenges at him and his inexperience would cause him major problems. His small victories and his big defeats sum up the story.

First director Sangeeth P. Rajan builds a believable world based on a well-written screenplay by Vinoy Thomas and Aneesh Anjali.

There is a conscious effort to capture the life and language of Iritty’s migrant Christians. There is also an exploration of how religion plays a central role in their social life. The dialogues rightly capture the dialect of the migrant population. There have been several movies in Mollywood lately—Malaynkunju and Ila Veezha Poonchira among others, in which the topography of its locations played a major role in the narrative. In Palthu Janwar also, the geography of Iritty is part of the narrative. Ranadive offers decent cinematography.

A major drawback of the film is the performance of its lead actor. Basil Joseph doesn’t lift the film beyond a limit, although the supporting actors, particularly Johny Antony and Shammy Thilakan, deliver stellar performances. In the Basil and Shammy combo scenes, the latter scores with his screen presence and experience. Basil’s bland performance sinks the film’s energy in many places, especially at the climax.

Veterinary care is not something we often see in movies. Palthu Janwar attempts to portray an authentic picture of the Veterinary Services, the issues and the pressure faced by State Veterinary Service employees. He takes a sarcastic approach to multilevel marketing, as well as superstitions and “magic tricks” peddled by those who wear religious robes. It also symbolically shows how religion was something useful for the survival of Syrian Christian migrants. There is also a representation of the strength and courage of women from migrant families. The screenplay ingeniously wraps all of these little elements into its narrative. There is also effective use of light humor.

Music director Justin Varghese-lyricist Suhail Koya duo deliver two wonderful songs in the film. The film’s background music is also decent.

The film hears that animals deserve human empathy too. However, there aren’t many scenes to bring the audience to that feeling. Moreover, the film fails to make the audience understand the emotional states of its main character. This reviewer believes that a better performer in the lead role would have made a big difference.

Movie: Palthu Janwar

Directed by: Sangeeth P. Rajan

With: Basil Joseph, Shammi Thilakan, Johny Antony, Indrans, Dileesh Pothan

Rating: 3/5

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