Politics has always been a big part of Kerala’s social fabric. Every person in the state has an opinion on the political situation. There is a lot of volatility that comes from discussing the affairs of the state, and many filmmakers have made movies on the subject. Some were satires, while many were proper dramas. Sandesham, Vellimoonga, Jana Gana Mana, Lucifer, Nayattu, Malik, and Unda are some excellent examples of political dramas that would engage the audience in discussion. Perilloor Premier League, directed by Praveen Chandran, is a brand-new Malayalam-language satirical political drama on Disney+. These seven episodic, long shows were released on January 5, 2024.
The premise of Perilloor Premier League is as simple as the people it is based on. Malavika and Sreeram meet in an arranged setting, but the former reveals the story of their first meeting in school, which was not very memorable. As Sreeram rejects the union for a seemingly better woman with better prospects, Malavika, on the other hand, is convinced by her uncle Peethambaran to run for the post of Perilloor Panchayat President. The veteran political leader was removed from the post of Perilloor Panchayat President over corruption charges. Peethambaran plans to place his niece on the seat to exercise power through her.
On one hand, Malavika reluctantly agrees to run for the post, while her aunt asks her to make sure she loses the election as it would disrupt her personal life. Thus began Malavika’s game, along with her aunt’s, to lose in the upcoming panchayat elections. Sreeram, the prospective groom who is looking for a perfect bride, has no luck seeking a successful union after rejecting Malavika. Does Malavika lose the election? Who was Sreeram’s Lady Luck? All these, along with the politics of the town, are covered broadly, and this forms the crux of the town.
The title of the show has nothing to do with the content or the story. The premise is simple, and it remains that way that till the end. There are no complex layers that discuss the human story and the politics of society. A big chunk of the show is about different incidents that occur in the town, and the local Panchayat president makes an appearance as a show of power and goodwill, but beyond that, nothing is explored about the nitty-gritty of the town.
None of the stories are connected well, which is why we question the screenplay. The narrative is completely disjointed, and the comedic gags are tiresome to watch after a point. Some subplots are introduced, and the writer Deepu Pradeep fails to resuscitate them in the later half of the show. There are plenty of subplots involving women wanting to marry men of their choice, but they are forced to tie the knot with those their family members chose. The message of this subplot was unclear. Was the writer trying to let the audience know women are powerless, and that is the reality of rural Kerala?
A character named ‘Psycho Balachandran’ was introduced and is known to showcase his lunatic side. There is no start or end to his arc. A good actor was wasted on this character, with the writer giving him no room to grow. There were some inputs provided to understand his state of mind, but beyond a certain episode, ‘Psycho Balachandran’ was a forgettable character who served no purpose. Soman, the elderly man who is running from the opposition party, has been given nothing to do other than fight with Malavika, her uncle, and their party members. Soman, played by another prominent actor, could have been given layers, but his calm demeanor is not given any specific explanation. Another role that could have been exciting if not for a dull arc. Regarding the lead, who was hell-bent on following her path until the last episode, the sudden change of mind was very out of character for her. The sudden jump made by the writers in the intentions showcased by the lead female actor was erratic and unnecessary. The convenient end to her arc was uncalled for. This is the issue when male writers create female characters. A lot of them get the nuances wrong.
The writer tried to justify a scene of violence against a teenage girl as an act of rage, and used it in the later part of the show as well to introduce two characters based on their histories. It was appalling in the 21st century where violence in cinema is being called problematic; even in Malayalam cinema, it was ignorant of the writers to pass this off as something funny. There was no end to the comedic gags that stalled the narrative, and there was no recovery from them. The story was just all over the place, with no exact goal in sight. There was no conclusive ending to the show, even though the writers had the opportunity to turn this into a fantastic satire on village politics. Certain plot points magnify the narrow-mindedness of the people, but nothing is done to counter this wrong mindset except to push it under the rug. The writing could have been upfront and called out misogyny. Why do shows romanticize old lovers who show interest in each other years later despite being married? The idealization of infidelity is wrong. The writers also trivialized depression in one scene. It is important to have an opinion about it, but disregarding it through writing is wrong.
The climax of the show was bland, rushed, and chaotic. Nothing conclusive was achieved from the ending of the Perilloor Premier League. The writers did not have any clue on how to end the show, and it did not close any of the chapters it opened. Only one relationship was given adequate closure. Sadly, the writers did not give time and space for this relationship to grow to make their love story believable. Despite these flaws, the sound design was excellent. The attention to detail given to political campaigns is accurate. The movie brings out the nuttiness of the village, which is full of crazy characters. These people add color to the social fabric, but sadly, the aspects that distinguish them are not explored in depth. The election symbol of Peethambaran’s party is a fox, which is a subtle dig at who the man is behind the façade of being a generous politician. The humor added by the writer works in a lot of places, and it is infused well in the screenplay. Even though the gags become repetitive and bizarre by the end of the show, a large part of the humor stays with the viewers.
The direction was alright in the beginning, but it lost touch with the screenplay. The direction by Praveen Chandran was confusing and disconnected. It could not salvage a disordered narrative, which affected the climax of the show as well. The production design is excellent, as it is in many movies and shows in Malayalam. A lot of the surroundings are realistic.
The performances are superlative, but that does not hold the show tight. Veteran actors like Vijay Raghavan and Ashokan are at the top of their game and are taking on exciting roles such as these in the Perilloor Premier League. Nikhila Vimal as Malavika is brilliant as the naïve young woman who eventually becomes an independent woman as the show progresses. Sunny Wayne did not have much to offer as the forever-rejected bridegroom. Sunny did not have much to add as a character, as most of the shouldering was done by Vijay Raghavan and Nikhila Vimal as the uncle-niece duo. Aju Varghese’s character deserved better writing, as he is an excellent actor.
Perilloor Premier League could have been a lot better if the writer were not trying to add everything into one boiling pot. The show had a lot of similarities to Basil Joseph’s Kunjiramayanam. The show is sadly a tiring mix of comedic instances clubbed together with no end goal in sight.