Malayalam cinema with a pan-Indian perspective is rare to find. Of course we have movies with either Mumbai, or Bangalore or Chennai as the backdrop or may be Calcutta. Here is a cinema that takes you on a journey of India, through its rich exotic locations that pans from Delhi to Kerala and finally reaches Ladakh through Ajmer, Jaisalmar, Jodhpur to name a few.
At each place we meet the real people (not the reel/made up ones. I mean, the actors are chosen from that particular place itself), hear their music, see them dance, taste their food and hear them talk in their dialects. (of course there are malayalees at each crucial point to help the hero,even otherwise he is quite comfortable and fluent in other languages and the director has not
used subtitles ). If you love travelling you are going to like this movie/travelogue because such visual delight is, again, unusual to grace the silver screen of Malayalam cinema (kudos to M.J.Radhakrishnan).
Veettilekkulla vazhi (The way home) is the story of a quest, undertaken by a doctor (Prithviraj) with a haunting past. One of his patients, Razia, who was part of a suicide squad of the jihadi group, on the verge of death makes her last wish, that of finding her husband and returning their child to him. The man, Abdul Zuban Tariq, whom the doctor is searching for (for two reasons), is the top notch leader of a terrorist group and the master mind behind the Delhi blasts. It is the journey of a young father who lost his son and that of a son who has never seen his father, nor destined to be.
Ramesh Narayan uses the musical instruments and folk tunes of each place as the background score and that heightens the beauty of the visuals shot entirely on a Panavision camera. A simple narrative, it has no hitches of an art house movie, but lacks depth, for we don't feel the agony of the child or the warmth of the bonding that develops between the doctor and the child. Not much happens over the journey. It was fairly a smooth sail reaching the leader of the much sought after terrorist group. (Do people offer namaz in a different way in Rajasthan? Closely watch the movie!)
The five year old kid (master Govardhan) is not definitely an 'amul baby' as we get to see in movies usually and has a rustic look. He has nothing much to do rather than walking along Prithvi raj. Far away from home, in a strange place the child says he is not able to get sleep, and then the doctor says he will tell him a story. To this the kid says he has never heard a story, nobody put him to sleep with stories and lullabies. His father was unaware of his existence and his mother abandoned him when he was six months old to pursue her 'holy war'. This is a poignant moment in the movie that talks about the people who are left alone, orphaned as a result of terrorism. (but the doctor choosing a story from O.V Vijayan's 'Legends of Khasak' for a five year old seemed odd).
Terrorism happens to be just a backdrop in this adventure drama/ road movie. Some crucial incidents like 'love jihad' (Razia meets and falls in love with Tariq and is forced into terrorism), the question of educated people entering into this world (Razia and Tariq were working in the IT sector), and flow of youths from places like Malappuram are mentioned in the movie. Violence is also subdued and Dr. Biju takes care not to overdo a much talked/ filmed theme. His thrust is on the humanistic element, it's about the relationships, as the protagonist says one must lose or gain someone to know the value of relation.
This is Dr. Biju's third movie (earlier ones- Saira, Raman) and this won the National award for Best feature film in Malayalam this year. This movie which had a world premiere at the 12th Mumbai film fest was also part of more than 15 international film festivals and won many awards for best film, cinematography (M.J. Radhakrishnan) and music.