Engrossing fare but falters at places despite some good performances
It’s the terraces of Mattancherry’s closely packed houses that the audience spend much of their time in Parava. It’s here that its two young protagonists, Irshad (Amal Shah) and Haseeb (Govind Pai), are at their happiest, rearing ornamental fishes and their pet pigeons, training them for local pigeon racing competitions.
Away from the cramped indoors and the narrow bylanes, it’s in this open space that they are themselves.
Littil Swayamp’s camera flies over these terraces, almost like the pigeons, and we with it. But Soubin Shahir, in his debut film, has much more to say, of the lives below, in the houses and in the bylanes.
The kids and their pigeons, are an entry point, a medium, for him to slowly take us into these lives, bearing many a scar from the past.
It is also for him a chance to correct perceptions about a place, often misrepresented in the Malayalam cinema of yesteryear as the den of goons.
It’s an insider’s view, of someone who has lived in a place for long, something like what Chemban Vinod Jose had while writing Angamaly Diaries, taking in all the little details of the everyday life of the community there.
The initial half has quite a few sequences to cherish, right from the opening one, of the two kids getting back a fish that a friend had stolen or the one on the first day of school, with Irshad being the only failed student, and his teacher’s attempts to make him comfortable.
The pace is unhurried. It seems the filmmaker almost wanted to tell the story of each person around here, which is where the film falters a bit.
For quite a while, it shifts its attention away from the kids to a flashback, to tell a story of some grown-ups. This part, with the extended cameo of Dulquer Salman, has its moments, but it effectively bears down the film, which was set to soar high. Same goes for many sequences with the kids’ rival gang of pigeon racers, led by Shine Tom Chacko.
Yes, these stories are indeed part of the boys discovering the world around them and learning to negotiate it in their own inventive ways. But at a few places it feels like cramming in a bit too much, especially at the middle portions and at the climax where the separate tracks all come together.
The visual story telling, along with the performance of the two young boys and that of actors such as Shane Nigam and Siddique, are the high points of the film. Parava could have soared higher, if not for the extra weight that it was forced to carry.