Zacharia (Paul Zacharia) has his own standing in contemporary Malayalam literature. His sparkling wit and humour and his mastery over the art of narration makes his writings so popular.
It’s after a gap of over two decades that a film is made based on a book by Zacharia. The last time it was Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who in 1993 adapted his ‘Bhaskara Patelarum Ente Jeevithavum’ and made ‘Vidheyan’. Now, in 2014, when debutant director Shibu Gangadharan comes up with ‘Praise the Lord’, an adaptation of the novella of the same name by Zacharia, it’s incidentally Mammootty who once again plays the key role. (Mammootty had played one of the two key roles in ‘Vidheyan’, the other actor being M R Gopakumar).
Expectations were high, especially among those who are familiar with Zacharia and his writings. And, since the film had popular actors like Mukesh, Shajon Kalabhavan, Joy Mathew, Indrans etc in the cast, there were talks that it may turn out to be a decent box office venture too. But unfortunately ‘Praise the Lord’ fails miserably, in all ways. It’s neither here nor there and totally lost in translation. There’s nothing in the film that impressed me, neither as an adaptation of Zacharia’s ‘Praise the Lord’ nor as an independent film, a Mammootty starrer.
I had watched ‘Praise the Lord’ on Day One itself, along with my cousin Nandakumar. The audience turn-out was not bad when compared to what happens to most other films these days, but it was of course bad when we take into account the fact that it’s a Mammootty starrer and has other popular actors in it. When the film ended, we were both confused as to what it was all about. There was definitely no Zacharia stamp upon the film, apart from the fact that there was a line-up of characters from the novella and a reproduction of incidents from it. There was nothing impressive in it, even when seen as an independent film, forgetting Zacharia and his story. Everyone who came out of the theatre had a disappointed, exhausted look.
Back home, I searched among my collection of books, got ‘Praise the Lord’ and did a quick reading. Wow, what a different experience it was! I could read the book again and again, without getting bored. The way Zacharia narrates the story, the sparkling wit, the subtle humour and satire makes the story interesting. But, with the film, I was terribly bored with just one watch, or to be honest, with just half of it. Yes, at half-time itself, we were both fed up, like the others in the hall...
‘Praise the Lord’ tells the story of Joy (Mammootty), his wife Ancy (Reenu Mathews) and their friend Sunny (Mukesh), who decide to give refuge to a pair of lovers on the run. Samkutty (Ahamed Siddique) and Annie (Akanksha Puri) had met in Delhi, during a religious congregation, and had fallen in love. But owing to stiff opposition from Samkutty’s family, who land up in Delhi to make sure the lovers don’t unite, they flee Delhi and arrive in Kerala. It’s in this context that Sunny, who has a vested interest behind his granting them refuge, comes to Joy for help. Joy agrees, especially because though he had heard of love and lovers, he himself has never had the chance to see a pair of lovers, except in films. The story thus goes on...
Well, the storyline, thanks to Zacharia, is interesting indeed. The dialogues are mostly borrowed from Zacharia’s book, but post translation on screen, it all turns out to be so dull, so unimpressive. The dialogues have no punch in them, the narrative is quite unimpressive. I feel that had it been a better script-writer, who could perhaps have done it differently and in a better manner, the film would have stood at par with the book. But, as of now, ‘Praise the Lord’, the film is a total wash out, a terribly wasted effort from the side of the director and the script-writer and wouldn’t stand much of a chance as a Mammootty starrer either.
Mammootty is convincing as Joy, Mukesh and Reenu Mathews are OK with their performances. Shajon does justice to what he has to do. Joy Mathew has nothing much to do. Ahamed Siddique, who gained popularity with ‘Salt n’ Pepper’ is wasted in a role that’s so poorly treated in the script while Akanksha Puri too doesn’t make much of an impact. In fact none of the actors in the film makes a lasting impact on our minds, thanks to the poor script.
Cinematography by Pradeep Nair and art-work by Sujith Raghav are impressive, but what good does technical brilliance do when script-wise and direction-wise a film goes so terribly wrong.
Bijibal has done a good job of the background music; it suits the mood of the film. Of the songs, set to tune by Shaan Rahman, one is good while the others are totally unwarranted and could have been avoided.
Scripting is where ‘Praise the Lord’ has gone totally wrong. Zacharia’s story has as its strength the first person narrative, which I feel could very well have been used in the film too, in a very different and effective manner. The writer has failed to make it interesting as an independent film and as an adaptation of Zacharia’s novella; he has failed in capturing its essence. The film now is a terrible mess of an adaptation.
Seems the debutant director, who has worked with some of the best of contemporary filmmakers, got carried away with the fact that he was adapting a story by Zacharia and took the story itself for granted. If he had paid better attention to the script, it would have been a totally different film. As such, ‘Praise the Lord’ is a wasted exercise. Anyway, all the best for the next venture!
Verdict- Totally unimpressive; terrible mess of an adaptation, wasted effort as an entertainer