Among the mainstream Kubriks in Malayalam Cinema, I have always envied ‘Sachi’ the writer. For the ambitious subjects he brings in all the time and for the mainstream sensibilities he incorporates with’em. Driving License, too is one of its kind, a simpler subject is broadened to a wider canvas. In every sense. Lal Jr’s film is an out-and-out entertainer, it has every fun elements of conventional entertainment. It also carries a meta-movie sub genre. A self reflective look into the movie industry.
There is a producer (played by Lalu Alex) who’s stake is rising as the schedule gets longer than expected, budget has gone overboard. A climax shoot needs certain permission and for that Driving License of Harindran (The superstar played by Prithviraj Sukumaran) is needed. The crisis wents aboard to the Motor Vehicle Inspector of the jurisdiction Kuruvila (Suraj Venjaramoodu as the Fan). But things goes out-of-hand with a media leakage. The plot becomes a sort of cat-and-mouse play and conflict in interest of Harindran and Kuruvila.
Sachy sets up the premise early with a humanistic rooting for both of the protagonists. You couldn’t take sides, as no one is villain or hero here. Even the negative characters becomes futile by the end of the film. Harindran’s wife (Deepti Sati) has a serious health condition that requires treatment abroad. Kuruvila’s middle-class family consists of his wife (Miya) and son. There is rooting for both sides. But, Suraj Venjaramoodu makes him empathise with the character so badly. Even at some point of the film there was a try to misplace heroism, a try to humanise the larger than life figures we see in movies as vulnerable people. But this undercurrent loses track at the midway.
Sachi’s ambitious effort makes a toss on the obnoxious politics of press, similar to Ramaleela news media is used as a narrative tool here. There is a verbose commentary on ‘Celebrity Stalking’ and the madcap mob mentality of the fan-people. The climax portions are terrically shot, full power to cinematographer Alex J Pullikal for the engrossing stylish sophistication. Suraj is also terrific with an enigma that’s so humanistic.
For Prithvi it’s a cakewalk since the role mostly constructs his personal mannerisms. Barring the initial portions which had pretty much exaggeration, these two actors are powerhouse in the climax and pre-climax. It’s their confrontation scenes that gives a solid adrenaline rush in the viewing experience. But, the real stalwart of Driving License was Miya George. She is absolutely fantastic and gives a flavour of delectable humour to an otherwise serious narrative. Saiju Kurupp is also commendable as a witty wicked politician.
Prithviraj in a recent interview said that Mammootty was first offered for the role and he liked to play the Fan character. It would have been nothing short of terrific, especially as far as the genre is concerned. Adding that Prithviraj is widely known for acting as a diehard Mammootty fan in One Way Ticket, and Mammootty’s obsession with cars, the fan arrogance. Prithvi is aptly cast. The best second option to Mammootty. Prithvi is also rumoured to be hot-tempered, he too has crazy obsession with cars and driving. The opening scene of Driving License is a parallel FDFS of an action film starring Harindran. It is an obvious nod to the biggest young action hero of M-town. The whole screenplay carries a meta layer of this sort. Talking more about it would be a spoiler. Probably this is Sachy’s best work yet. The second half until the pre-climax point of Driving License is one of my most enjoyed theatrical experiences in recent times.