“Puzhu,” a Sony LIV Original, directed by the debutant director Ratheena, is a disturbing tale of a man who is a control freak, a toxic parent, and a bigot. Kuttan, played by Mammootty, the story of his so far is not explored in detail, but a lot of his backstory is implied throughout the running time of 1 hour 55 mins.
‘Puzhu’ Story – What The Film Is About?
The film begins with Kuttapan, a theater actor/playwright, staging a play named Thakshakan that tells the tale of a mighty king who believes he can rule everything in his kingdom without considering any living creature’s dignity. Be it a priest, a hunter, an elephant, or a snake. The King is cursed by the priest’s wife for killing her husband. She announces that the King will also be killed by the snake Thakshakan on the seventh day from the day of her husband’s death.
Kuttapan, played by Appunni Sasi, is married to Bharati, played by Parvathy, who is Kuttan’s younger sister. Kuttan and Bharati’s relationship remains strained as she decides to go against her family and marry Kuttapan, who belongs to an oppressed caste. Kuttan, a widower refuses to marry anyone for the sake of his son Rishikesh, aka Kichu.
Kuttan, a retired police officer, is highly suspicious of people around him as plenty of unrelated events make him think someone is out to kill him. His extensive experience in the force and his ex-colleagues help him collect evidence surrounding the mysterious incidents occurring around Kuttan.
Writers Harshad, Sharfu, and Suhas present a story of an egoistic man, mirroring the tale of Thakshakan. “Puzhu” on the first viewing grows like poison, and by the second viewing, audiences are thoroughly disturbed by the actions of the lead character, Kuttan.
*Spoilers Alert* This is for audiences who have seen the film. Kindly skip the article from here if you haven’t watched “Puzhu.”
‘Puzhu’ Ending – Is Kuttan Dead Or Alive?
The climactic sequence in “Puzhu” begins with one last attempt on Kuttan’s life through his CPAP machine. Kuttan figures out who is the culprit and resumes the hunt for that person. On the same day, Kuttan’s sister Bharati informs him of her pregnancy and wants to meet their mother to convey the news. Kuttan is visibly disgusted by the thought of his sister carrying the child of a man he considers beneath them. In a fit of rage which is fueled by alcohol, Kuttan murders his sister and brother-in-law. Aware of the fact that police might soon arrest him, he moves his son to his ancestral home. At his ancestral home, Kuttan has a showdown with the boy who is attempting to kill him. A scrawny boy named Ameer.
Ameer is the son of a man Kuttan arrested years ago on unproven charges of terrorism. Unable to find evidence all these years, Ameer’s father passes away in custody, affecting his family. Ameer vows to kill Kuttan, who has no regret whatsoever for his actions. Ameer finally achieves his only goal in life, i.e., to kill Kuttan.
Harshad, Suhas, and Sharfu leave no stone unturned to present Kuttan as the negative character, paralleling Kuttan’s character to the King’s character in the play. The running theme of “Puzhu” is Kuttapan’s play of the haughty King. It is shocking how the play mirrors the story of Kuttan, his family, and his upbringing.
Kuttan and Bharati are Brahmins by birth. Kuttan believes the values he was brought up with are correct, and they cannot be messed around with. Bharati leaving their family to marry someone from the oppressed caste jolts Kuttan’s system to the point he confesses to never seeing her ever again.
Kuttan is the King who believes he is powerful enough to torment anyone he wishes to, control his and his son’s lives as much as he can, and constantly bicker about how things around him provoke him to act the way he does, never acknowledging his dominating nature.
Being a control freak parent, Kuttan constrains Kichu from leading a normal life in the guise of spending time with his son. Like the King, unwilling to admit to the power he holds, Kuttan’s dominating control freak nature extends to the point of his unwillingness to deal with his sister’s choice of partner and overlooking all the above to place societal norms over Bharati’s choice as an individual.
Kuttan refuses to acknowledge Bharati’s second marriage to her long-time partner Kuttapan, not respecting her choices and showing zero to no dignity towards them. Kuttan’s visibly revulsed on seeing Bharati, her husband, to the point where he barely mumbles when he speaks to them without making any strong eye contact. Mirroring the King’s actions in the play Thakshakan, Kuttan takes the matter into his own hands and decides to kill his sister and brother-in-law, inherently killing the unborn child. All three are completely innocent.
The King in the play, to stay away from death, manages to keep Thakshakan away from his sea palace, but Thakshakan manages to sneak into the palace as a worm (“Puzhu”) in the fruit, unrecognized by the King, manages to get to the King and kills him. Ameer is that snake that follows Kuttan in the form of a worm (“Puzhu”) and finally gets into his home.
Kuttan, now aware of Ameer’s intentions and the murders Kuttan committed, is on the run for his life, evading death at every step while trying to convince himself of the actions he thinks were right. Kuttan attempts to be ten steps ahead just like the King, perceiving himself to be omnipotent, but fails as death comes to him most unexpectedly, rendering him helpless.
The Caste, The Theme, And The Writing
The writers, Harshad, Suhas, and Sharfu, bring forth a topic rarely touched upon by Malayalam mainstream filmmakers, caste. Not many mainstream films have highlighted the issue of caste, caste-based oppression, and caste-based ostracization. “Puzhu” deals with it head-on. Though there were issues with the story and the screenplay, the overall theme keeps the film steady.
The topic of caste has been overlooked by many who believe Kerala, being a state that places literacy in the highest of regards, follows the system of matriarchy; not many are aware of the caste-based ex-communication that is still practiced by many families in the state, which is what “Puzhu” highlights through the film.
The writers of “Puzhu” also showcase, by the end of the film, how the powerful men of the upper caste tend to misuse the power handed over to them, unaware of the privilege they carry and tend to act like victims of the situation rather than recognizing the entitlement handed out to them through generations. At various points in the film, one gets to see the casteist nature of the residents living inside the residential complex. Most of them have held high-ranking positions all their lives but refuse to walk away from the age-old regressive thought process. One of the scenes in “Puzhu” has Mammootty asking the complex secretary why the apartment was rented out to his sister and brother-in-law, as it was decided to rent the apartments only to “our people.” The audiences are not spoon-fed, but it is implied through dialogues on how caste still dominates the social structure.
The writers did a fantastic job of mirroring Kuttapan’s play with the life of Kuttan, but somewhere the similarities got lost, and the climax did not land properly. The climax feels rushed, and so does the back story about Ameer’s need to seek revenge. The writers should have spent time blending Ameer’s life with Kuttan’s life to make the climax more believable. The casting was wrong. The actor who plays Ameer could not bring the exact emotion required for the audience to sympathize with him and his predicament. The screenplay was easy to understand by the end, but only on a second viewing. The rushed climax ruined the essence of the film.
“Puzhu” is an excellent film because it puts forward an important topic that is hardly contested by mainstream filmmakers. The performances of Mammootty and Parvathy elevate the screenplay. Mammootty’s arresting performance as a control freak is something that will be considered one of the best by the legend. Parvathy and Appunni Sasi’s performances hold the ground and make you want to see them more on screen. Despite a messed-up climax, “Puzhu” lingers long after the film is over.
“Puzhu” is now streaming on SonyLIV with subtitles.