Pada – Writer-director Kamal KM took a pivotal moment in the state’s political history and turned it into a compelling film.
A compelling tale of activism in the 1990s.
Critic’s Rating: 4.0/5
The film is based on a true story of four guys known as Ayyankali Pada who kidnap the Palakkad collector in order to gain tribal land rights.
Every now and again, you’ll encounter a film that makes you feel like two hours were well spent. Pada is one of them. After seeing the 125-minute film, you not only feel grateful for having had a terrific cinematic experience, but you also feel like you’ve learned something and want to do something. Interestingly, the film is based on an incident that occurred in 1996 at the Palakkad Collectorate, but tragically, the tale feels very current over 25 years later, except that it may be impossible to gather a few of individuals who will selflessly operate for the needs of others now.
The Ayyankali Pada, which is made up of Kunchacko Boban, Vinayakan, Joju George, and Dileesh Pothen – not in that order of significance – takes the collector hostage for nearly 10 hours. They want the left-wing government to drop a new measure that denies adivasis land rights. So they barricade themselves in the collector’s office with some ammunition and begin bargaining.
The drama of the mediation between the four and the government, represented by the chief secretary, portrayed by Prakash Raj, is shown in the film. With elections approaching, the government is more concerned with maintaining its good name and getting the officer out of harm’s way.
As the ‘pada’ watch the television to see how their protest is being received, they are irritated to see that an official statement implies that the police have no idea who they are or what their demands are; the government expertly presents it as if they are terrorist victims. These four, on the other hand, are a passionate and intellectual bunch. They know a lot of stuff, both at the grassroots and beyond. They know how to respond when the collector invokes the Geneva Convention on hostage rights, and when he claims to be service-oriented and has assisted in a tribal land dispute, they remind him that he was unable to complete the programme effectively.
Is it possible to reach an amicable agreement? The government offers a temporary solution, and the film concludes with footage from the actual event, telling us how things turned out for the four, not only in terms of the sad state of tribal land rights, but also in terms of how those in the administration are not spared if they don’t toe the line.
The four major performers are superb, flawlessly complimenting one another and evoking sympathy and arousal without ever becoming too theatrical. Arjun Radhakrishnan, who plays collector Ajay Sripad Dange, deserves special attention for holding his own in a room with our best performers. He gives his part respect and strength, and he makes a difficult character likeable.
Side performers like Indrans and others do a fantastic job as well.
The film’s beginning is a little hazy, and composer Vishnu Vijay’s repeated dramatic BGM over the lines doesn’t help; but, the adivasi songs have a lovely, rustic pace. Though a big portion of the film is filmed in a room, it is well-captured and feels claustrophobic only when the narrative necessitates it, Sameer Thahir’s photography and Shan Mohammed’s editing retain the emotional pace of the picture.
In essence, writer-director Kamal KM took a significant event in the state’s political history and turned it into a compelling, thought-provoking film with a compelling, thought-provoking screenplay, perfectly captured scenes that convey not only the very different times but also the workings of our government offices, and excellent acting. This is a film that everyone should see.