The King and the Commissioner – A sequel gone awry


Malayalam films are raining sequels these days. There have been numerous attempts in recent times to bring back to life characters from the past that have influenced the life and times of film goers in Kerala.
 
There has been a history of sequels in the 80’s and 90’s. There was the popular trilogy of Naadodikaatu, Pattanapravesham and Akkare Akkare Akkare which elucidate the adventures of daft CID’s Dasan and Vijayan. Then there were the adventures of the cool dude CBI officer Sethuramaiyer, whose detective skills became the talking point in four different movies across the 80’s and 2000’s. Again there was Inspector Balram of Mammotty who came back twice again. And who would not remember Mohanlal’s and Thilakan’s archetypal performance in Chengol and Kireedam.
 
But overall the numbers that had come in over the years have let the viewers retain their interest in the sequels that comes once in a while.
 
All have changed this decade. We have suddenly seen a spurt in the number of movies that come in as an extension of the life of their previous existence.
 
First there was Raavanaprabhu, the return of Mangalassery Neelakantan a much loved and hated feudal lord from Devasuram. Then there were the sequels to the comedy classic In Harihar Nagar. If the first sequel To Harihar Nagar hit the screens after a gap of 18 years, the second sequel, In Ghost House Inn, took only 18 months to make. Then there was the comeback of Sagar Elias Jacky, a character made immortal by Mohanlal in the 80’s, back in a more stylish avatar.
 
It’s always an enormous pressure when you do a sequel. The demands are so high, as the standards has already been set. It seemed to go on well until recently a few low quality sequels came up. August 15, Senior Mandrake – only a few which we could remember the names of. A few of them tested my patience in the theatres, and the worst part of these was that seeing the farce in theatres made me hate the original versions which were far more better in quality and content.
 
So I waited rather implausibly for the arrival of The King and The Commissioner – Shaji Kailas’s most recent endeavour to reinvent himself and libretto author Renji Panicker by bringing back two of his most famous characters from the 90’s into a single movie. Both The King and The Commissioner were cult classics for the average malayalee, and both the characters of Joseph Alex IAS and Bharat Chandran IPS have been etched in the movie goers mind due to their mannerism, attitude and persona.
 
It was a good start. The atmosphere at Savitha Film City at Kannur was electrifying, and the fan boys of both superstars had made headway to celebrate the opening. Usually, there was not even a minimum chance that I would get tickets for a superstar movie on the first day itself, as conquering the queue was almost impossible. But this time, tickets were arranged backstage due to the new found contacts that came with my new job profile.
 
A full house and the expectations were huge. As usual, the credits got all the claps and it was virtually impossible to hear anything. The start was good, and Mammotty’s introduction happened with a lot of fanfare. Then the wait started for the Commissioner to enter and it was not until halfway into the first half that he was thrust on the canvas.
 
But as the movie and screenplay moved forward, the expectations turned to damp squib. What was expected to be an entertaining blitzkrieg of dialogues turned out to be a never ending three and half hour torture of verbal diarrhea. It was just play and replay of most of the dialogues from the previous classics. For example, The King’s “Extra Bone” becomes “Extra Spine”, and the classic “Ormayundo ee mugham” from Commissioner is repeated at a different target. Saikumar’s character of the Swamy was a poor caricature of a similar character that was essayed by Narendra Prasad in another hit of Shaji-Renji team’s Ekalavyan.
 
Worse still, even though the thread of the story was quite good, it did not make any impact as the screenplay was too dull compared to Renji’s previous flicks. There was an apparent tiredness that could be made out from the faces of the lead actors. Also the situations were not quite realistic, examples of an IAS officer daring the Prime Minister of the country, the bomb blast in the High Court at Delhi that looked like a family court at Kannur, Mammotty giving lecture in Malayalam about the greatness of India to a Pakistani ISI chief (how does the director expect a Paki to know Malayalam) and a fight at the climax in a godown (like in the good old days when every Indian movie was climaxed there). What I felt that the script was just an opportunity for the protagonists to mouth a series of endless discourse without much intent or connotation.
 
The King and The Commissioner turned out to be an agony that lasted too long. Once out of the theatre, I had made up my mind to go back to YouTube and watch the original King and Commissioner to get over the hangover as soon as possible. And that was what I did as soon as I reached home. Even though it was well past midnight, watching the originals helped me get over the disenchantment of watching the follow-up.  
 
Don Marquis once quoted – “A sequel is an admission that you’ve been reduced to imitating yourself”. 
 
And I feel this attempt at imitating the success has come a cropper.
 
Hope the next sequel that we are expecting in Malayalam cinema will be something that we can endure with.
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