Why Ranam Is One Of My Favourite Malayalam Movies Of All Time

If you’re a Malayalee or if you’ve been living in Kerala/following Malayalam Movies, you must have definitely heard of Ranam: Detroit Crossing.

For the uninitiated, Ranam is a recently-released Malayalam movie – 99% of which was shot entirely in the U.S. (In Detroit, MI and Augusta, GA). The movie tells the story of Aadhi (played by actor Prithviraj Sukumaran), an automobile mechanic that lives in Detroit, Michigan – who gets involved in dark world of the city’s drug cartels. His uncle/foster-father Bhaskar (played by actor Nandhu) was arm-twisted into the grimy world of drugs by a South Asian drug gang that rules the city; to pay off his debts. Aadhi is forced to work as a drug trafficker for the cartel, to help his foster father. The movie goes on to share the Aadhi’s story – he desperately wants to come clean and live a peaceful life. Aadhi has to fight the mighty Damodar (leader of the gang, played by Actor Rahman) for his one last shot at a second chance. Nandu and his family, Seema (Isha Talwar) – a woman who enters Aadhi’s life due to sheer chance, and her daughter – Deepika (Celine Joseph) are the dramatis personae in Aadhi’s journey towards redemption and peace.

Before I go forward; I want to clarify that this is not a movie review. I don’t consider myself to be qualified enough to review movies. I used to do that in a past life, but not any more. If you’re looking for a review, you may want to ask good ol’ aunt Google about it.

Statutory warning: not all of these reviews are favourable. The movie has mixed reviews. There may also be plot spoilers in this article; so if you haven’t watched the movie, and intend to do so at some point in time – I kindly request you to stop right here, go watch the movie, and come back.

In all fairness, I cannot disagree with the many of the reviews the movie has garnered. Ranam may not be one of the best movies that have come out in recent times; it has its share of flaws (but then again, is there really a movie that is 100% perfect?). It may not even be Prithviraj’s best movie as an actor (even though his acting in the movie is commendable – even harshest of critics seem to give that to him).

Nevertheless, on a personal note, Ranam is one of my most favourite movies of all time; and it will continue to be on that list, alongside other contenders like The Shawshank Redemption, The Matrix Trilogy, Good Will Hunting, Seven Pounds, among others…

Now, when you make such a statement, there’s the obvious, one-word follow-up question: Why? Which is the whole point of this blog post in the first place.

So, some movies tend to make an impact on you, on a deeply personal level. They may be mundane, they may not be well-made, they may even have elements that are hackneyed, you keep noticing more and more of them as you rewatch these movies. Nevertheless, they touch you in ways more than one, and mould you into a different person.

Ranam is one of those movies that will occupy a place in my heart for the forseeable future.

Some Backstory

I’ll admit; I’m one of the biggest Prithviraj fans alive. There, I’ve said it.

I was never a fan, until I got a chance to interview him for The Hindu in a past life as a journalist. The whole interview was a stroke of luck. It was my second ever story as a journalist, and I was super tensed as I prepared for the interview. However, things worked out like a charm, and that interview remains to be the best interview I’ve done till date. The actor charmed me with his straightforwardness, his brutal honesty, his knowledgeability, and his overall persona. Prithviraj is one of those actors who is also a hero in real life, as recent events have proved. The interview coincided with one of his recent releases – Puthiya Mukham, which turned out to be a blockbuster after a series of flops. It was literally a new lease of life for the actor, who reinvented himself.

I didn’t realize it back then, but that interview changed me forever. The actor’s personality inspired me quite a bit. The interview took place when I was in a not-so-great episode of life; I was a college-student that was in a quagmire of problems, confused about life, and unsure about my future. The steely resolve of this man, who chose to persevere and stand on his own feet, ignoring critics that panned him left and right, was inspiring – for want of a better word. It gave me a much-needed confidence to reach out to my own dreams.

I wouldn’t be here, in my cozy, comfortable hotel room in Orlando, Florida stealing a few minutes from the hectic schedule of the the Automattic Grand Meetup to write this blog post if that interview didn’t happen. Even Prithvi himself may not have ever realized it (nor he ever will, I think), but that interview laid the seeds of confidence within me. It taught me that even those dreams and goals that may seem unattainable, are right there on the palm of your hand. All I had to do was to dream of it, and to give my 100% to it; and within no time – I would achieve it. Working at Automattic was my biggest dreams of all-time, and Prithviraj gave me the confidence to go for it.

Even in the lowest moments of my life, when I suffer from the pangs of acute depression, I go back to this interview, and the career trajectory of this actor (who would go on to battle lows in his career after our interview, only to bounce back like the prodigal unicorn – and is now at the prime of his career; producing world-class movies, and even directing one!).

Now, what’s the Ranam connection? 

Ranam speaks volumes about second chances. I can draw parallels with Aadhi who takes risks to take a second shot at a better life. Ranam is my rightful sequel to the Prithviraj Interview, on an inspirational level. In ways more than one, the movie tells one message; However dark and dreary you think your life is, there is always a way out. All you have to do is take that extra step. It could be a bold decision, it could be a leap of faith. It might even give you a temporary setback; but eventually, your hard work, and your positive mindset pays off…

As a protagonist, Aadhi has to fight real battles in the movie. He has ghosts from the past to tackle. He flees from an abusive childhood in Kerala, India, to the United States with his uncle Bhaskar, in hopes of restarting a fresh life, only to get embroiled unwillingly with a South Asian drug cartel as their trafficker. He’s good at his job (both as a mechanic and as a drug trafficker). Aadhi wants to get out of the drug cartel and make a decent living in Detroit, but he cannot (even though he’s ended dealings with Damodar as part of plans to start his life to start afresh). This is because, he is branded for life as a criminal in front of the underworld, and must keep himself safe from rival gangs (who want to eliminate him). And of course there’s Damodar himself, who wants him back as his foot solider – he goes on to extort the few people in Aadhi’s life that he holds close to his heart; in a bid to get him back in his gang.

Aadhi has few options: He must save the people he loves from Damodar’s wrath, he must eliminate the threats that keep him from the life of his dreams, and he is entirely on his own. To make things worse, Aadhi is on a deadline; which is all set to explode in a short while like a ticking time bomb. It’s a race against time. A race that Aadhi has to win.

Aadhi’s battle against the darkness, set alongside one of the most brilliant soundtracks of all time (which I’m listening to as I’m writing this), is what makes the movie special for me. Prithviraj’s brilliant acting – where he lives on-screen in Aadhi’s role, firmly set this point in stone in my psyche: Whatever be the darkness that engulfs you, whatever adversities you may face in life, you, and you only – can (and will) find solutions to those problems, and thrive in life. All you need is a firm resolve, a positive mindset, and perseverance. 

I can’t comment on the fate of Aadhi’s story in Ranam (you should probably watch the movie to learn what happens to him), but I too had my shot at a second chance. I took a risk – it paid off, and royally so. Today, I’m living the life of my dreams, working a job I love, married to the woman I loved, living in our own cozy little apartment in the amazing city of Kochi, with our two lovely kitten-babies for company. It wouldn’t have worked out, unless I embraced those second chances that life offered me.

And that’s exactly why I love Ranam.

The movie (and its soundtrack) inspires me to face all my fears, and to conquer all those mountains. I know fully well that a strong positive mindset, and perseverance is all what it takes for one to leave the dingy, dark, crime-filled parts of the city of Detroit (once the pride of Michigan and the U.S. – the center of the U.S. Automobile Industry), driving a 1969 Pontiac LeMans right through the Ambassador bridge, to lead a life of peace and joy at Windsor, Ontario, located in the amazing, free country of Canada – a land of immense possibilities and opportunities.

Kudos to the entire team behind Ranam! You folks have made a movie that definitely made a mark in the Malayalam Film Industry. I can’t thank you enough, and you would know why by now.

I’ll leave you with the movie’s title track; which rightly summarizes the thoughts I’ve tried to put across. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

If you can dream it, you can do it.

Walt Disney

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