In Ratheena P.T.’s debut feature, which is based on Harshad, Sharfu, and Suhas’ script, Puzhu (Worm) has a number of meanings. The film’s finale is foreshadowed by a single-actor mythical play that takes place within the narrative. A king goes into isolation to protect himself from a curse in the play. He closes all possible security risks that might put his life in danger. But he never imagined the peril to his existence would come from something that appeared to be harmless puzhu.
Puzh, in the context of this film, might be interpreted as more than simply a carrier of death. The term puzhu has a dehumanizing effect. It’s only a puzhu, right? How bad can it get? Puzh is an allegory for prejudice in this movie. Every time Kuttan (a powerful Mammootty) appears around his brother-in-law Kuttappan, he expresses repugnance and hatred as if he were nothing more than a worm who deserves to be treated harshly.
Kuttan is a Brahmin, while Kuttappan is a SC/ST person. Bharati (a Grandmaster Parvathy), Kuttan’s younger sister, falls in love with Kuttappan and runs away with him against her family’s wishes. Her mother becomes bedridden in shock, and her brother loses the ability to look others in the eye as a result of their disgrace.
Puzhu stands out among other caste-related films by being completely non-judgemental. The film is forgiving even to the most cruel. It never once attempts to advise us on whose side we should take. The film makes a significant step in leaving it up to the viewers’ ethics and principles.
There are times when the film makes you want to root for Kuttan. You’ve already seen how deep-rooted Kuttan’s prejudice against those who come from different communities and castes is. His parenting abilities are well-known to be poor, negative, and on the verge of child abuse. He treats his son as if he were a criminal. However, there are certain segments where you feel for Kuttan.
You sympathize with the man as he tries to connect with his son Kichu, who begins to openly revolt against him. You feel sorry for Kichu when he, for all the correct reasons, refuses to reciprocate Kuttan’s attempts to interact with him. There are times when Kuttan generates a chuckle or two. For example, he revisits a suspicious individual every time he evades an attempt on his life. Of course, as tragedy immediately ensues, the humor is brief-lived.
Mammootty is amazing. If it weren’t for the camera’s capacity to capture the tiniest features of faces, the loathing that Mammootty displays with his little twitch of his eyes and lips would have gone unnoticed.
Puzhu is a test of one’s moral compass that can’t be passed. Kuttan, the narrative viewpoint character, is an unrepentant bigoted. Bharati and Kuttappan are hardly heard from. Mammoty gives an outstanding performance as a guy with an questionable and even condemnable world view.
He makes us realize that Kuttan is trapped in his own thoughts and it isn’t a particularly pleasant place to be. It’s hell. The axiom that rules his life is “What would others say?” It’s the question that keeps him up at night, eating away at him from the inside out. You get what Kuttan is going through. You may not agree with him, but you can comprehend where he’s coming from.
If you have a better understanding of life than Kuttan, you would realize that caste separation is a manufactured social norm and it isn’t a fact of life. And that we don’t need to be concerned about what others think because the views and opinions of others are not our problems. All Kuttan has to do now is take a break from his own thoughts and relax.
If you don’t know any better, there’s a good chance you’ll think Kuttan deserved everything he got and that his methods were fine. And that is a rare danger the filmmakers are willing to take. It entirely relies on your interpretation of the film whether or not it has a message.
Harshad, Sharfu, Suhas
Mammootty, Nayan Rosh T M, Parvathy Thiruvothu
Movie rating: 3.5/5