Well, we know the premises of Pulimurugan already from the trailer and are curious to see how director Vysakh tells a story in 2 hours and 45 minutes around the wild hunter tag attributed to Mohanlal's titular character. The lights in the theater go off and as we wait through the numerous thanks cards on screen, the filmmaker puts across a thank you note to 'mass movie makers'; there it is – his intention is clear – a movie that can please the masses. It's a tough task at hand; if not neatly packed, such a movie can easily go overboard with the mass-pleasing mode and would not pass the muster. We will come back to this later.
The movie's first half-an-hour, sans Mohanlal and in flashback narrative, tells us what makes Pulimurugan the man he is now. Puliyannur, a jungle village which earned its name for being the target of man-eating tigers that come out of the deep forests in search of human flesh, is his home. As a child, he loses his parents; his father is devoured by a tiger in front of him and the kid is left with his infant brother. He is filled with vengeance, wants to kill the tiger that ended his father's life and he does just that. Yes, these scenes might appear to you as a bit over the top to digest, but Murugan, armed with a vel (spear), has to become Pulimurugan and the scenario is presented before us in a believable manner. From there, he becomes the savior of people in Puliyoor and surrounding areas. And 30 minutes into the movie, we get to see Mohanlal for the first time, taking on a humongous tiger single-handedly in a pulsating scene.
Now, here's a quick defogger. Isn't puli leopard, and not tiger? It is indeed tigers we're dealing with here and a conversation in the movie makes it clear for the audience – tiger is also called varayan puli in Malayalam.
Moving ahead with Murugan - he is not a hunter, he eliminates man-eating tigers only when they venture into human habitats and kill people. He owns a lorry, he is husband to Myna (Kamalinee Mukherjee), elder brother to Manikkuttan (Vinu Mohan), nephew to Balaraman (Lal) and father to a girl child. We hear the story of Pulimurugan when the character played by Jagapathi Babu comes to Puliyoor in search of the man. We are told of situations that took him out of his home and the interval block comes with a punchy, interesting twist.
Let's go back to that tough task we mentioned earlier that director Vysakh and writer Udaykrishna have now. In the second half, Murugan is out of his comfort zone, he has never lived outside Puliyoor. He knows the rules of the jungle, but he is unaware of the conspiracies humans hatch. The director-writer combo puts him in that riveting scenario and throws up troubles at Murugan and confidently succeeds in thrilling the audience.
The narrative is straight and tight. Most importantly, the movie is engaging throughout and doesn't slip off. Though it's an action thriller primarily, Vysakh has all the ingredients laced in for a well-balanced mix. The director has made sure that the elements he put in are there for a reason. Suraj Venjaramoodu's character is mainly for the laughs, but it is in sync with the story. A voluptuous Julie (Namitha) is there too, just to make Murugan and Myna get into a fight. And we're okay with that because it makes for some cute scenes featuring Mohanlal and Kamalinee.
It is commendable how Vysakh and Udaykrishna have etched the character of Myna. Pulimurugan might be a hero for others, but it's only Myna who gets to scold him and call him eli (rat) Murugan. The on-screen chemistry of Kamalinee and Mohanlal is fabulous. The supporting characters have done justice to their roles – be it Lal, Jagapathi Babu, Kishore, Suraj, Gopakumar, Bala, Noby, Sudheer Karamana, Hareesh Peradi or anyone else.
Stunt director Peter Hein must be appreciated for the adrenaline-filled action scenes, especially the climax fight. Age may not be on Mohanlal's side, but the actor is super flexible in stunt scenes and his efforts are mighty impressive. Cameraman Shaji Kumar's frames propel the story-telling. The dim-lighted frames are praiseworthy. The visual effects might look a bit off in a couple of places, but they won't spoil your mood.
Now, Mohanlal, the actor. He is brilliant and a treat for our senses. He is effortless, fiery, funny and oh-I-will-pull-your-cheeks adorable as Murugan moves through circumstances. There's this sweet, innocent smile Murugan has when a baddie is about to unleash a couple of feisty dogs to attack him – that's a save-it-forever moment. He owns the movie, from the word go. He lights up the screen to such an extent that we even feel Gopi Sunder's thumping background score is not needed there. Oh yes, he growls like a tiger too.
Pulimurugan sure is a winner; a neatly packed commercial flick from Vysakh and Mohanlal.
Onmanorama rating: 3.5/5