An Adoor Gopalakrishnan is always a fascinating experience to watch. It was necessary to write the review of this Malayalam film, just to stay in touch with my roots and brush up on my Malayalam. Naalu Pennungal is different from the previous Adoor films, especially since it narrates four different stories, each distinct from the other with no apparent attempt to link them together. All the four stories written by the Jnanpith recipient, the late Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai) speak about feministic concerns. This is the reason why Naalu Pennungal interesting and relevant.
The first story in Naalu Pennungal is Oru Niyamalanghanathinte Katha, which has a street prostitute named Kunjipennu (Padmapriya) as the pivotal character. The story, set against the 1940's relates about what happens when Kunjipennu at last finds someone who loves her dearly and who wants to lead a life with her, as her husband. How society reacts to this is narrated subtly, and forms the rest of the plot.
The second story, titled Kanyaka, is about a very bold and industrious peasant girl Kumari (Geethu Mohandas), who enters into wedlock with a man named Narayanan (Nandu), who runs a shop and who has been praised by all as someone who doesn't have any kind of vice. Whether or not the marriage with Narayanan works out for Kumari forms the rest of the story.
The third story, titled Chinnu Amma, tells the story of a middle-aged homemaker named Chinnu (Manju Pillai), who is issueless and who is as sad as her husband Raman Pillai (Murali) about this. Then there is Nara Pillai (Mukesh), who is on a visit to his native place after being in Tamil Nadu for a long time and who visits Chinnu frequently with lecherous intentions.
The fourth story Nithyakanyaka is about Kamakshi (Nandita Das), a girl from an affluent family, who remains a spinster even after her younger sisters and younger brother get married and live with their families. The plight of Kamakshi and the way the society sees her and the way she reacts t the responses of those around her form the plot. The helplessness and vulnerability of the fairer sex, the inherent strength they have, and the vicissitudes of fate to which women often fall prey in a male dominated society are some of the issues that get discussed in Naalu Pennungal. A very important aspect of the film is that even seemingly minor characters are portrayed with due importance given to them.
Performance wise everyone has done a good job. The technical features too are worth mentioning. The cinematography of MJ Radhakrishnan is excellent. The editing, art work, sound recording, costume designing and the background score make the film stand out. Naalu Pennungal may be a letdown to those who venture out to compare it with Adoor Gopalakrishnan's masterpiece works like Elipathayam, Swayamvaram or Kodiyettam. Just view this film as an independent work, setting aside all prejudices and intellectual presumptions, and you will definitely enjoy the film. If you are the kind that enjoys well-told serious films