It is after a long time that one sees Mohanlal really sink his teeth into a role worthy of his talent. Although 'Paradesi' ends up being a tad disappointing, the performances alone make this movie a worthy watch.
As the title indicates not-so subtly, the tale is about Indian Muslim expatriates who live a life of misery and fear ever since the partition. Instead, the director opts to iterate through a string of characters, tracing their lamentable history through the weary eyes of Moosa (Mohanlal). Despite being treated to a virtual acting exhibition by a list of Malayalam actors, being subjected to different variations of the same story again and again does take its toll on the viewer. A little bit of subtlety would have gone a long way in raising this film to another level altogether, I couldn't help but think.
In what ought to have been a landmark role, Mohanlal is curiously apathetic as the young Moosa - lackluster would be the one would be tempted to use if it were not for the marvelous turn Mohanlal turns in as the aged, harried Moosa. In both body language and voice modulation, Mohanlal is the aged Moosa personified - the one drawback is the apparent inability to imbibe the Malabar slang. Paternally affectionate with the young journalist, pensive as he discusses legal matters with the policemen and lawyers, despairing as he is banished yet again, cringing and pathetic as he attempts to hide from the policemen - there is apparently no emotion that Mohanlal cannot conjure up for Moosa. It is a pity that Mohanlal the actor is constantly drowned in tripe like Madambi and Hello.
Shweta Menon is truly a surprise as Moosa's wife, Aamina. It is a shocker of a performance - made all the more effective more by sheer shock value than actual histronics, one suspects. But nay; the very thought is cruel and unfair to an extremely competent Shweta.
There are quite a few effective cameos in the movie - Jagathy, Sidhique, Padmapriya, T.G.Ravi, Cochin Haneefa etc. Jagathy yet again reveals what an outstanding talent he really is - after the likes of Mazha and Nottam in recent times, he chews up the scenery as the mentally unhinged Abdul Rehman. It is a pity that this fine actor is more often than not relegated to asinine comic roles. The Lakshmy Gopalaswamy story was not effective though, and the stark depiction of police brutality was completely uncalled for. The akwardness between Moosa and Khafija was a deft touch - all the more so since it left unexplained.
It is directorially that the film falters. All the stories / characters are but clones of one another, and one could see the end coming a thousand miles away (though Mohanlal reserves his best for the final few scenes). A dash of subtlety and some firm editing might have done wonders to make a good film better.
Verdict: Laudable effort, but could have been so much better.