Biju Menon is back and once again he bowls you over with his charm and versatility. Menon carries Rakshadhikari Baiju Oppu on his shoulders, a simple tale set in a nondescript village and like his character Baiju, Menon endears himself to the audience.
The film marks Ranjan Pramod, noted Malayalam screenwriter’s, third directorial venture.
The village of Kumbalam could be any small village of Kerala — untouched by the development of the industrialised world.
Baiju (Menon) lives with his family in Kumbalam. His main distraction? Kumbalam Arts Club that he founded in his younger days. Much water has flown under the bridge since then, yet this father of one and a government employee in his early forties is often hanging out in the company of its club members, which includes schoolchildren, teenagers and young men. The Kumbalam Brothers and their passion for cricket is enough to draw Baiju out onto the vacant land of the village, a space shared by the young and the old.
While the story is pivoted around Baiju, Pramod has woven little stories into his screenplay. Baiju is that uncle you would run to when your father refuses to get you a cricket set and dismisses your love for the game.
Baiju is also the neighbour, whom a father approaches when going through a personal tragedy and wants him to talk to his grieving son.
Baiju, however, is not portrayed as a larger than life figure. He is an ordinary guy with his own fears and prefers life’s slow lanes unlike his friend, George (Dileesh Pothan), who has emigrated to the US and realises what he is missing during a visit to the village. Baiju is the rakshadhikari, the patron or mentor you could rely on.
Besides, the story is not about cricket only. There is romance and many light moments to enjoy. The humour is understated and situational. Pramod’s story, free from loud drama and action, beautifully captures the uncomplicated life of this small community where time stands still and residents savour life’s little joys.
Menon is terrific and a natural. Complementing him are the supporting team members. Despite the three hours duration it seldom sags; its host of characters keep the wheels going.
Hannah Reji Koshy plays Baiju’s wife Ajitha, an ordinary woman who yearns for her husband’s attention. When ignored, she does not turn into a nagging shrew but a cute sulking child.
Aju Verghese is Unni, Baiju’s friend determined to marry a fair-skinned woman, but is pursued by Sreekala, a dark-skinned young woman.
Wonderful is veteran actor Janardhan’s role as an annoying old man from the neighbourhood who is a party pooper when the children come out to play in the vacant space.
Without shouting himself hoarse, Pramod slips in a social message as curtains come down. Rakshadhikari Baiju is a refreshing film with its characters leaving behind a nice feeling.
You may relate to some or maybe reminded of someone if you have your roots in those small villages of Kerala.