Mammootty's Puzhu review: Unearthing a paranoid worm crawling under your skin

The poster of 'Puzhu' set to release on May 13
Poster of Mammootty starrer 'Puzhu'

Have you heard the story of Raja Parikshit and Takshaka, the serpent king? It's a chapter from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Raja Parikshit tries to interrupt a sage who is in deep meditation. On learning about the king's mischief, the sage's son becomes furious and curses Parikshit that he would die of a snake bite. Takshaka, the serpent king, takes it upon himself to kill Parikshit.

An overconfident Raja Parikshit builds a tightly secured mansion in the skies to escape the curse. The serpent king fails six times trying to kill the king. However, the seventh time, Takshaka assumes the shape of a puzhu (worm) and infiltrates a basket of fruits being gifted to the king.

After a bite from a fruit, Takshaka shifts back to his original form and coils around the king's neck. Parikshit, who by now has accepted there is no escaping the curse, gives into Takshaka, who bites him as cursed by the sage's son.

To put it in simple terms, Puzhu has Mammootty playing Raja Parikshit, while Takshaka or the worm can be construed as several aspects, including his character's bigotry and tainted past.

It seems like Mammootty has found his calling in scripts that have its base in Mahabharata and we are not complaining. The veteran actor has performed like a dream in Puzhu.

Ratheena P T can take a bow. What a stellar debut! Puzhu is all that the trailer promised and more.


Kuttan (Mammootty), a bigoted upper-caste retired police officer, is living an annoyingly disciplined life with his son Kichu (Vasudev Sajeesh Marar), who is outrightly afraid of his father and his obsessive compulsions. Kuttan is set in his ways. To Kuttan, tomato is a vegetable and strong teeth are white. And because it is so for Kuttan, it should be so for Kichu as well.

Kuttan has a boring routine and Kichu is naturally not so fond of it.

His parenting skills are borderline abusive and the movie early on establishes that he is manipulative when it comes to keeping his son in line. Kuttan's sister Bharathi (Parvathy Thiruvothu) is married to Kuttappan (Appunni Sasi), a theatre activist who belongs to a lower caste, much to the chagrin of Kuttan and his family.

Kuttan is paranoid about plots against him and is suspicious to the core. 

This creeps into his home as well, with Kichu being restricted from accepting anything from anybody or even playing outside. There are moments when Mammootty's character draws parallels with Leonardo DiCaprio's character in Martin Scorcese's 'Shutter Island'. Or it could also be the audience waiting for someone to break it to him that his paranoia is in his head and to snap out of it.

Puzhu, for the majority of its runtime, adopts a realistic approach, occasionally using plot devices like theatre to explain where the movie is at that particular moment. The movie picks up pace rapidly in the last 12 minutes, with its whole aura turning cinematic without warning.

Still, it does not take away from the menacing mood the movie intends to leave you in at the end of it all.

Puzhu is a metaphor to expose the social evil that is caste

Harshad, who scripted 'Unda', seems to have brought forward his two best messages from the brilliant Khalid Rahman movie while writing the story for Puzhu. One is the prevalence of casteism in the police department, and the other is the tendency of the police force to frame innocents. However, he has treated both plots rather freshly, not leaving any marks of his previous outing.

Kuttappan has some of the strongest statements in Puzhu. Calling a spade a spade, Kuttappan wears his identity on his sleeve proudly and never once do you see him bowing in shame because of his caste. Appunni Sasi as Kuttappan has done a splendid job portraying the theatre activist.

Meanwhile, the bigot and brother in Kuttan are constantly at battle with each other. His conversations with his mother, who becomes paralysed after Bharathi leaves home to live with Kuttappan, feel like self-confessions.

But what stands out in the movie is how the makers never ask you to take sides.

Ratheena has crafted some moments in the movie that could make you empathise with the bigot in Kuttan. Puzhu never forces its truth on the audience. The movie lends that kind of thinking space. At the end of it all, it is up to the viewer to decide what side of the conversation do they want to be on. 

Stellar performances both in front and behind the camera

Mammootty's subtle expressions showing disdain for things that do not go with his belief system have been captured wonderfully by Theni Eswar. The megastar needs roles like these to remind true movie lovers how he earned that label. The man has certainly scored a hattrick of hits (Bheeshma Parvam, CBI 5: The Brain). There were shades of his yesteryear brilliance in this performance and we need more of that.

An in-form Parvathy Thiruvothu has delivered a smart performance. She has done justice to her role and has nailed the nuances of her character.

Vasudev, who plays Kichu, has done a fabulous job. After all, almost all his scenes had him pitted against Mammootty. So it had to be 'A-Game or No Game'.

Kottayam Ramesh has done a decent job playing Kuttan's friend.

Mammootty, who always aspired to be loved as a good actor has shed his hero image for the movie 'Puzhu' (screen grab)

The late Nedumudi Venu looked a lot healthier in this movie than he did in 'Bheeshma Parvam' or 'Aaraattu'.

Puzhu has no songs in it, thereby restricting the runtime to under two hours, which should be the case with more movies here.

The background music composed by Jakes Bejoy synced with the mood of the story so well that it never overpowered or distracted the audience from what was happening on screen. His use of wailing instruments has worked to the advantage of most scenes, adding the right tinge of disturbance to Puzhu.

This worm will slowly but surely crawl under your skin. Ratheena most definitely has a winner on her hands.

Puzhu is available for streaming on SonyLiv.


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