Senna Hegde who made the wonderful ‘Thingalazhcha Nischayam’ takes a more commercial approach to comedy in this film, which is enjoyable in most parts.
Kanhangad, or at least the parts of Kanhangad in Kerala’s Kasargod district where Senna Hegde places his new Malayalam film, is so charmingly rustic with muddy red roads and prettily lit bars that it looks partly like a Western of the 1960s. Minus Clint Eastwood, the setting has got everything, complete with the sound of a pistol that goes off every now and then. 1744 White Alto is a raw comedy, enjoyable in most parts, slightly off-putting towards the end, anchored on an unfitting mix of the personal and professional life of a police officer. But Senna is a master caster and all the actors, beginning from the emphatic Sharaf U Dheen to the newcomers, make it a comfortable ride.
Unlike his award-winning first release Thingalazhcha Nishchayam, most of the actors are known faces in 1744 White Alto. Sharaf U Dheen plays the police officer mentioned earlier – Mahesh — leading an interesting lot of subordinates in a place his mother (Sminu Sijo, wonderful as always) calls a pattikaadu (remote, secluded village). When they hear about a white car carrying two suspicious characters, three policemen embark on an unusual chase in the night. The one driving (Sajin Cherukayil) is a car fanatic and makes half-witted suggestions that the other two – an English-speaking engineering dropout (Arun Kurian) and a senior officer – gladly agree with.
Mujeeb Majeed’s music is an unhampered companion to the smoothly flowing script that Senna wrote with Sreeraj Raveendran and Arjunan. It is only towards the end that the music explodes into multiple directions, and the English lyrics almost seem like an extension of the 1990s comedies that one of the two rowdies likes to watch on TV. Anand Manmadhan plays this character which is written with a lot of detail. He has a speech disability and bursts into angry tantrums that land everyone around him in trouble.
Rajesh Madhavan plays the other thug, quite easily the tougher one even at half the size. These two and the three policemen chasing after them make for a good part of the fun, all delivered with admirable ease.
Watch: Trailer of the film
Into their midst, taking the story forward and giving the title its meaning, comes a man driving a white Maruti Alto, numbered 1744. Navas Vallikkunnu plays a petty crook, drunk half the time he is on screen. He and Sharaf U Dheen are the only ones whose families come into the picture. Arya Salim, Vincy Aloshious, and Sminu play their respective parts hilariously well.
But though the two parallel paths in Mahesh’s life – at work and at home – are individually fun, they seem jutting put together, like annoying commercials popping up in the middle of a scene. Nevertheless, the humour can at times split your sides.
Sreeraj, who co-wrote the script, has also shot the film with a sort of density, making the night drives look slightly creepy. Even the first shots captured in the day featuring a lone car from a distance in a deserted roadway, are eerie. The sets of the film deserve special mention. Art director Vinod Pattanakkadan has made everything look quaint, even a dingy lodge and a standalone costume rental.
It works that the frames mostly feature empty roads, building on the atmospheric aesthetics of old Western films. Like a disclaimer, Rajesh’s character tells his friend, you won’t become an Englishman by watching these English films. But for the unsettling ending, which seems like a jolt on an otherwise easygoing script, Senna’s movie is all merry.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.