In a Land Where Play Spaces Get Hit for Sixers…

There are times when you feel that your voice is left submerged in the din of several other shouts. Your call for sanity strikes a deaf ear and bounces off to nowhere. You are rendered helpless, until someone out there decides to pick up your voice and make it heard loud and clear. Rakshadhikari Baiju, Oppu (Patron Baiju, the Undersigned) is your voice that has been rendered mute until now. Whether it is heard loud and clear is a different question, but this simple, non-eventful flick doing the rounds in Kerala’s theatres at the moment is our voice – yours and mine – crying to be heard by the powers that be!

Our voice – yours and mine – taken up on a mass medium platform, would have brought with it hopes of a happy ending scenario. However, Rakshadhikari Baiju stays true to reality. The kind of real world where urban jungles encroach into rural hinterland. What you get to see on screen is a mesmerising play field of innocence and commitment. A play field where the kids get to spend their mornings and evenings in elan. A play ground where camaraderie plays a better role than those urban pigeon holes where high-end tablets and gaming machines spur kids to go for the kill.

filmreview-150x150It is in such a play field, an enticingly level-playing field for that matter, that Rakshadhikari Baiju begins and ends. An elder brother, a mentor in the truest sense, leads the pack of kids playing here. From the cricket-playing adults to the football-dribbling kids, and the ladies in love with badminton, everyone has one person to look up to. Baiju, the government servant who loves being in the midst of his boys armed with the cricket bat, comes across as the hero with not an iota of heroics that a regular run-of-the-mill Malayalam film would boast of. He is just another man out there who wants to lead his pack of younger men and the boys.

Go looking for Baiju and he would, most of the time, be on the ground, entertaining his boys with his boastful olden days with the bat and ball. Or, he would be somewhere out there with a companion dipping his fingers into fresh cooked pearl spot at a remote Kumbalam toddy shack.

Even as a variety of tales play in the background, Baiju’s love for the Kumbalam Brothers playground plays under the archlights. And, he wants the playground to serve the kids for many a generation to come. As is the case with all of us, Baiju too finds his playground disappear, only to spring forth with tall urban infrastructure playing the third umpire and muttering the marching orders to the cricket pitch where he and his boys had hit many a sixer.  Baiju had been doing it ever since he was eight years old, and when it slips off, he weeps.

As green topped rural landscapes get devoured by concrete jungles that come with the fancy name of development, we – you and me – scream our hearts out to halt the inevitable. Baiju does the same, but to no avail. No heroics here to redeem whatever he stood for. It’s exactly what we experience when we see our kids being robbed of their play spaces.

Biju Menon stands tall in a world that drifts away with all that he stood for. Yet, he holds close to his soul, his love for his boys. Even as reality sets in with all that seems cruel in a world dipped in innocence, he plays the hero so helpless amidst the ways of the urban world. Here we have an actor who is capable of emoting with just his presence. Even as he stands mute, his body language makes Rakshadhikari Baiju a laudable venture.  Rakshadhikari Baiju is an out and out Biju Menon flick, where out-of-the-world heroics have no role to play. He conveys all the emotions with just a look, and stance. Baiju is a role Biju Menon plays with elan. He doesn’t have to play the part, as he lives through the three hours, captivating the audience. He forms the voice that spills out of the audiences’ minds, and he knows no resistance can succeed in a world controlled by the money bags. And in the end, he tells us all he, or we, could do is to sign and submit a memorandum to the corridors of power, on what all could be done.

Rakshadhikari-Baiju2Playing perfect companion to Baiju is Alencier’s character in the movie, and his rendering of Oru Pushpam Matramen… is a perfect throwback to the olden days. Alencier plays his role with conviction, as does Janardhanan in a minor, but significant, role.  The actress who played Aju Vargese’s love interest also deserves applause.

The rest of the cast deserves kudos for the support they offer to the storyline. Ranjan Pramod, known for his clean, entertaining screenplays, has matured as a director with Rakshadhikari Baiju. What makes the flick significant is the way it has translated a true-to-life scenario on celluloid, sans any twist or flabbergasting climax.

Rakshadhikari Baiju is a must watch in these times when our kids find play spaces being taken away from their midst in the name of urbanisation. Buying a ticket to the flick could be your way of adding your signature to Baiju’s memorandum to the Chief Minister. Go for it!