All this crosses your mind when you are about to watch a Sathyan Anthikkad film, as he is undoutedly the king of family based feel-good films in Malayalam. Once again the director lives up to the expectations as he has not deviated from his tried and trusted formula with his Vinodayathra.
Though the film's title can be literally translated as 'picnic', it's also about the yatra or journey of the protagonist, Vinod (Dileep). An MCA graduate who has no particular goals set in his life and is a bit of a drifter. Vinod is sent to his sister Vimala (Seetha). His brother-in-law Shaji Raghavan (Mukesh) is a “Mr. Nice Guy” an engineer working in the irrigation department who is expected to reform Vinod. The arrival of Vinod brings some discomfort to Shaji, as his younger sister Reshmi (Parvathy) is also living with them.
Though there are quite a few comedy scenes (typical Sathyan happenings) in the first half, we know that all these are indeed a prelude to the real action. And of course it happens sometime later when Vinod meets Anupama (Meera Jasmine) quite accidentally. She is an engineering student who is forced to discontinue her studies, after her father- a police constable (Murali)- is fatally injured during a fight with some agitators. They meet frequently, and Anupama soon leaves an impression on him through some unintentional, chance-encounters. She makes him a more matured and better person. Anupama influences Vinod, quite a lot. He learns the need to be more serious about life.
Anupama once tells Vinod that people should be more concerned about their own lives than bother too much about international issues like the US attacks on Iraq, the tensions in Korea or the long period of Fidel Castro's rule in Cuba. There are also some scenes like corrupt employees in the government offices, the often irritating style of TV anchors who speak with a peculiar accent and even on the fake VCDs of just-released films, which are small but perhaps the director’s way of making a point on some current issues.
Though the film is a bit slow paced, Vinodayathra is indeed engaging which makes it a watchable movie. On the downside, most of the turnarounds are indeed predictable and that is one price that filmmakers pay when they make feel-good movies for the families.
Sathyan Anthikkad has scripted the film himself and he has done a decent job. On the acting front, it is a cakewalk for Dileep who has done a decent job though we have seen him doing similar roles early in his career. He does succeed in handling the situations in a light way, which is precisely the nature of his character in the film. It may not be her best role, but Meera Jasmine looks fabulous and convincing as usual. The pair does have an on- screen certain chemistry that works well. The supporting cast has done decently what their roles demand, especially Mukesh, but there is not much to do for them other than what they have shown in their earlier films.
S.Kumar has succeeded in making the frames look good and Ilayaraja has come out with some nice tunes too. Sai's costumes make the actors look good, but we wonder how the characters with limited earnings can they afford such nice outfits? K.Rajagopal's editing is impressive and Manoj's art direction is particularly evident during the song sequences, which have been choreographed well by Brinda.
On the whole if you like Sathyan type of feel-good- sentimental dramas , go for Vinodayatra, you will definitely enjoy this picnic.
Verdict: Above Average.