Bheeshma Parvam (2022) Malayalam Movie Review: When The Mahabharata Meets Godfather

The Godfather as a movie has been inspiring filmmakers across the globe even today. In India there have been many variations of Godfather which have been made right from Feroz Khan’s stylish Dharmatma, to Mani Ratnam’s gritty Nayagan, to Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar. 

Amal Neerad who was a protege of Ram Gopal Varma, had tried to attempt this underworld genre in the past but the results were middling. Bheeshma Parvam is set in Kochi of the late 80’s and talks about Michael (Mammootty) who is the head of a family and runs a parallel government.  We are not given details of what kind of business he does or how he wields so much power in the movie. It is hinted that most of their business is legal in a dialogue.

We know that Michael was studying to be a lawyer who turns into a murderer to avenge his elder brother’s death. It is a kind of hat tip to the actor who was a lawyer before  becoming an actor. 

Amal focuses on a few things which are generally not spoken of. Christians and Muslims do not have caste systems unlike Hindu, but in India irony is that even Christians and Muslims have imbibed caste system or rather inherited it. It also talks about the rivalry between these two communities in Kerala and mistrust between them.

Credit to Amal that despite the multitude of characters he gives each character their proper identity. The female characters in the film are not set-pieces, they are part of the decision making or even part of violence where they urge men to kill. 

Even though set in the 80s, the timeline is muddled here for the sake of  storytelling. This is where it gets interesting. We have two real life gangsters coming to Kerala. They are Bada Rajan and Chotta Rajan, it helps in adding to the myth of Michael and makes things interesting. What is more interesting is that we never see Michael’s father or elder brother. Amal interestingly combines Vito and Michael into his own Michael.

My favourite character in the movie is played by Soubin who is the confidante of Michael and was with him when he took arms for the first time. For a major part of the movie we see him a character who is supportive of his wife, takes care of his child and runs his shop. It is when his life is disturbed that we see another facet to his character and credit to Amal, for this could have been a cliché like in any other film but he weaves it so beautifully in this film and you root for him. 

The last act is when you realise why the title makes sense. I am not a fan of Amal and have not liked much of his previous work but with this he shows what he is capable of. He pays tribute to one of the most loved cinema in the history of movies, but adds his own flavours, Michael might have overcooked Biryani in the movie but Amal gives us the perfect biryani to relish. 

The film is now streaming on Disney Hotstar

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