Edakkad Battalion 06 movie review: Tovino Thomas and Samyuktha Menon are re-paired for a lame ode to notsurewhat
I doubt that Lijo Jose Pellissery would have expected amusement as a reaction to Jallikattu, yet halfway through Swapnesh K. Nair's Edakkad Battalion 06, I found myself laughing out loud at the contrast between this film and Pellissery's new release that I had watched just hours earlier. Jallikattu strides purposefully towards the many points it wishes to make, Edakkad B06 waffles on and on. Jallikattu is trim, Edakkad B06 is flabby. Jallikattu has clarity of thought, Edakkad B06 wanders about in a confusing state. Most important, you may like or dislike, agree or disagree with Jallikattu, but you have to admit that it is pointed and sharp. Edakkad Battalion 06, on the other hand, is as dull as hell.
The chasm separating these two films getting to theatres across India on the same day is a perfect illustration of how Malayalam cinema has for long swung wildly between extremes in terms of quality.
Edakkad Battalion 06 is set in a small town in Kerala where Captain Shafeek Mohammed of the Indian Army is home on vacation from a posting in the strife-torn north. Here he comes up against a bunch of no-good youngsters drifting through life and gets acquainted with the drug menace plaguing local youth. His passing concern grows into greater involvement in the problem when he learns that someone close to him is an addict.
The first visual of Tovino Thomas as Shafeek is preceded by a long-winded introduction to multiple characters in the story accompanied by sketches of the actors playing them. You might imagine that this will then be a busy film with each of these seemingly interesting men and women playing a significant role in the plot. Curb your imagination, dear reader, because the team of this film lacks it.
That intro - like so much else in Edakkad Battalion 06 - could have been shaved off without particularly impacting the film beyond reducing its length. Because when the narrative is rolled out, none of these characters is treated with any depth. Not even Naina Fathima, a teacher who has made a mark while working with differently abled students, and is played by Samyuktha Menon.
Thomas and Menon had sparkled and shone together as a screen couple in Theevandi. Her role in Edakkad Battalion 06 is so small, so generic and so marginal, that she can do little to lift it beyond the ordinary despite her good looks and undeniable charisma.
Menon could have been replaced by any random pretty woman without the change making an inch of a difference to this film, since the only purpose she serves here is to look nice, and give the male lead a woman to fall in love with, while Naina's profession sets the stage for a dramatic rescue by our hero early in the narrative and later for some children with disabilities to be dragged into what must rank as one of the most offensively emotionally manipulative, nauseatingly mushy, poorly written film endings ever seen.
The plot of Edakkad Battalion 06 feels like a contrived stringing together of disconnected sub-plots. Shafeek's interactions with his extended family, his romance with Naina, his work as an Armyman in a terrorism-stricken state and his confrontation with drug peddlers back home do not flow smoothly from one to the other, nor is any of these elements written with any detail. As a result when they are thrown together they feel like an odd, bland mishmash.
Women actors in most film industries, and in Malayalam cinema more than most, have limited choices, but male stars wield considerable clout, so while Menon could be let off lightly, Thomas should certainly be held accountable for his decision to pick this sub-par script. The charming young actor's filmography so far is packed with sweet, gentle cinema. Even when he did the horrendous Kalki earlier this year, it was possible to guess his reason for having chosen it: an evident desire to be catapulted into the biggest of big leagues in Mollywood although he is already a major star. What could he possibly have seen in Edakkad Battalion 06 though? The search for the answer may well inspire a mystery writer.
If you deign to check the credits of this soporific film, you may be startled to discover, as I was, that it has been scripted by P. Balachandran whose writing credits include the stupendous Kammatipaadam. A trough following a crest in a wave is a natural phenomenon, but can science please explain how Edakkad Battalion 06 could possibly follow Kammatipaadam from the same writer? Seriously, how?
Updated Date: Oct 22, 2019 15:25:03 IST