Director Joshiy and superstar Mohanlal have worked together on various films over the years, some of them being memorable and still remembered. In recent times they have given us the popular thriller Run Baby Run (2012) and also a dud like Lokpal (2013). Co-incidentally Joshiy’s last 3 films including Lokpal have all been commercial disasters (the other 2 films being Salaam Kashmir-2013 and Avatharam-2014). With his latest film Lailaa O Lailaa bringing back the Run Baby Run pair of Mohanlal and Amala Paul once again, people hoped that it would emulate the success of the earlier film and not end up as a dud like Lokpal. Lailaa O Lailaa also has been in the news for the inclusion of popular Tamil actor Sathyaraj among the star cast and for popular Bollywood screenwriter Suresh Nair making his Malayalam debut as writer. While the promo did not really impress I was hoping that the film would at least be engaging, which is why I wanted to watch it early on.
During the opening credits itself it is established that the entire tale would be based in Bangalore, a city that’s home to a huge Malayalee population and now frequently being featured in Malayalam films as well. The plot which unravels over a leisurely 168 minutes is pretty simple and without any complications. Jai Mohan (Mohanlal) to the public eye is an executive in an export firm, reporting to Shaheed Khadar (Sathyaraj). But in reality the export firm is just a cover for a secret Government force that has been set up to curb terrorism in the Country. Jai Mohan is a divorcee who subsequently falls in love with Anjali Menon (Amala Paul), daughter of the prosperous Dr.Menon (Joy Mathew) who isn’t exactly happy with his daughter’s choice. As Jai Mohan and Anjali slowly try to settle into their new phase in life, at work Jai Mohan and his team manage to nab the dreaded International Terrorist, Victor Rana (Rahul Dev). Jai Mohan also realizes that Rana and his men have been preparing for a big mission. What is that mission all about? How does Jai Mohan manage to crack the mission and also balance his relationship with Anjali is what the rest of the film is all about.
The film which essentially was meant to be a spy action-thriller and was even promoted as one, in reality has a lot of romance and drama as well interspersed with the action. Lailaa O Lailaa starts off well as we see Anjali waiting for Jai Mohan at their wedding venue and Dr.Menon gets all exasperated with the guests having arrived & the groom not to be seen. And on the other hand we see Jai Mohan nabbing Victor Rana after a short fight in a hotel room and later he rushes to reach in time for his wedding, well just about in time. But if all this gave you the impression that the rest of the film would be one breezy ride, you couldn’t have been more wrong. There is way too much time devoted to the romance between Jai Mohan and Anjali and their struggle to lead a regular married life, thanks to the secrecy around his work and his erratic work schedules. While all this is amusing initially, it goes on to get tiresome after a while.
The other big problem with the film is that for the genre it belongs to there are hardly any adrenaline pumping moments. Why is the crack team set up in Bangalore and not anywhere else in the country, we have no idea. For all the menace that the antagonist Victor Rana is supposed to portray (he is a wanted International terrorist, master of disguises, can speak 9 languages including Malayalam etc 🙂 ) he is hardly there in the film. At a certain point in the film there is so much being spoken about ‘Lailaa’ and ‘Ayesha’ and a possible link between them but when we realize what the link is you don’t know whether to chuckle or frown as it is quite silly indeed. The film also clearly reminds you of films like James Cameron’s True Lies and Neeraj Pandey’s Baby, but Lailaa O Lailaa is nowhere even close in terms of the grandeur, excitement or entertainment that these 2 earlier films provide and take care of.
Joshiy and Mohanlal need not even have had to rely on any external source for inspiration, a reminder of their own Run Baby Run would have been enough for them to realize how wrong they have been with Lailaa O Lailaa. While I wouldn’t call Run Baby Run a great film, it was certainly engaging and appears a classic before an attempt like Lailaa O Lailaa. The writing by Suresh Nair is so insipid and lacking in novelty that it makes one wonder if it’s written by the same person who has been responsible for churning out many wonderful Hindi films so far. It also makes you wonder what made a veteran director and a wonderful actor agree to work on this film, in the process getting some more good talent on board as well. Producers Santhosh Kottayi, Biju Antony and Preeta Nair probably would have been happy initially for having raised funding for the film by the crowd-equity route, but would the investors be proud of the association with the film in the way it has turned out remains to be seen.
Unlike the soundtrack of Run Baby Run which had the extremely popular “Attumanal Payayil” (and which is even referenced over here in Lailaa O Lailaa), the music by Gopi Sunder in Lailaa O Lailaa isn’t impressive at all. At a run time of 168 minutes the film turns out to be way too long for a tale like this and editor Shyam Sasidharan in consultation with Joshiy could have probably gone in for some trimming, it could have at least made the film a little racier. In terms of the performances there is nothing of a standout nature. As mentioned earlier, Rahul Dev has a very small presence in the film and he does his routine act. Joy Mathew does what his expected of him, he is probably the most predictable face in Malayalam Cinema these days. Ramya Nambeeshan has a cameo as Jai Mohan’s first wife and her presence could have even been done away with. Kainaat Arora as Lailaa has to only look hot and glamorous which she manages, in fact she has even more screen time than Victor Rana. Sathyaraj is quite effective as Jai Mohan’s superior officer, but their constant talk of how it is difficult to manage married life with a secret agent’s job gets irritating after a while.
Amala Paul doesn’t really have to stretch a lot in terms of what the role demands of her but still she is there right from the start to the end, something unusual for an action film. As for Mohanlal, he can do these characters even in his sleep, he is so good an actor that it makes you wonder why he would do a film like this which neither challenges him as an actor nor is entertaining at least. Irrespective of the box office verdict it is time that Joshiy does some serious introspection and decides what to do from hereon. In an era when so many new filmmakers are trying to seriously come up with some innovative scripts and with a few older filmmakers still managing to remain relevant with their films, a film like Lailaa O Lailaa is seriously not something to be proud of.