If you want to dive straight into the ranking of Santhosh Pandit films, feel free to skip the following text box and head to the list. But if you want to know how I ended up making this list, read on!
|Circa 2012: Free period at Computer Lab. I was debating with my classmates over which is the cringiest song of all time: A friend claimed it was Friday by Rebecca Black (his argument was that it was the most disliked song on YouTube), at which point I played for him the then-chartbuster Silsila hai Silsila. Everyone was laughing their asses off, and I thought I’d won…until a fellow took control of the system and played a life-changing track: Rathri Shubha Rathri. That was my introduction to “Common Man’s Superstar” Santhosh Pandit. |
Over the years, I’ve come across ‘Santhosh Pandit mass dialogues’, ‘Santhosh Pandit controversial talk shows’ and similar tit-bits on YouTube. Very entertaining indeed. And so, when my editor Govindan asked me if I could binge-watch his films and come up with a ranking order, I readily agreed. How had no one done this before, I wondered in quiet excitement as I set up the system for a binge day.
One film down, two films down…and I began to feel a void. I tried drinking water, eating a pazhampori, and taking a nap break…but the feeling wasn’t getting any better. I slowly realised that it was a void in my soul, arguably created due to excess exposure to Santhosh Pandit’s creative brilliance. I decided to take it slow. For the next 4 days, I limited myself to one SP film a day. And thankfully that was the perfect amount of madness to soak in one stretch.
The binge is finally over. I’m still alive…somewhat bruised by the madness, but somewhat transformed by it too. My patience levels have shot up exponentially. I’ve begun to value my time better. I’ve made a conscious effort to empathise with my friends and reduce my chalis. On a cinematic front, my regard for filmmakers such as Sonu Sisupal, Pramod Pappan and VA Shrikumar Menon has shot through the roof. I now have a new-found respect for Anantharaman (from Appupan and the Boys) as well as some new-found love for Govindan – at the interval of the third film, I did entertain the thought of strangling him the next time we meet, but at the end of it all, the good outweighs the bad, so…
Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the history of the internet, presenting to you: Every Santhosh Pandit Film, Ranked!
#6: Minimolude Achan
Genre: Tragedy (don’t ask for whom)
Plot: Minimol comes across the diary of her hospitalised, mentally unstable father Aditya Varma. Through this, she discovers the story of his life – the multiple heartbreaks that led him to his current state.
Review: The film discusses how love can be a dangerous weapon of self-destruction. Writer Pandit prematurely kills off multiple characters in this cult classic, taking clear inspiration from Game of Thrones. This is the first visually appealing film in cinematographer Pandit’s career, probably owing to it being shot on a Samsung Galaxy – a definite upgrade from the makers’ previous equipment (Nokia 1100). More importantly, this is a huge leap forward for actor Pandit – he changes his demeanour entirely, applies talcum powder on his hair, and transforms into a man in his sixties.
#5: Neelima Nalla Kuttiyanu vs Chiranjeevi IPS
Genre: Thriller, Avihitham
Plot: Anirudh is a youngster who accidentally ends up killing his extramarital GF’s husband. While he has covered up the murder, he can’t be relieved yet – as his wife starts suspecting him, and his smart brother Chiranjeevi IPS gets assigned to the case.
Review: An edge-of-the-seat thriller that hinges on Pandit’s screen presence; he plays not one but two roles (Anirudh and Chiranjeevi) and is on screen for most of the film’s runtime. In VA Shrikumar terminology, this is “Runwaykku John Wickil undaya item”. The screenplay seamlessly shifts between three things: Anirudh’s story, Chiranjeevi’s investigation, and the 345 songs which mostly feature Anirudh (or is it Chiranjeevi?) sniffing his lover(s) under the guise of romance.
#4: Kalidasan Kavitha Ezhuthukayanu
Plot: A college student submits his poetry to a publication under a false name – Kalidasan. This culminates in Kalidasan (Santhosh) becoming an accidental literary superstar. He moves to town, recruits two women – a ghostwriter and a maid – and begins a new inning in life.
Review: This is the first (and only) film in Malayalam cinema where an unmarried hero is in a live-in relationship with two women, while also dating a third. However polygamist this setup might be, our hero is a staunch one-woman man: every duet has Pandit romancing only one woman at a time. The film also deals with alcoholism (maybe a reference to Mohanlal’s similarly-titled Ayal Kadha Ezhuthukayanu): what stands out is a scene where a tipsy Kalidas scampers across the street. Sources claim that Pandit downed an entire bottle of dasamoolarishtam in preparation for the scene. The film also happens to have one of the most poignant breakup scenes you’ll ever see.
#3: Tintumon Enna Kodeeswaran
Genre: Social Commentary
Plot: Tintumon and Dundumol are at loggerheads with each other in the finale of a reality show. The winner takes home ₹5 crores. When (spoiler alert) Dundumol wins the prize, how Tintumon – and the people around him – conspire to get rich, forms the rest of the plot.
Review: The film highlights how people prioritise money over everything else, and how this approach can be detrimental to the quality of life. Visually, it is the best-looking Santhosh Pandit film, as 70% of the film has been shot by KTDC and the vlogging community. There are shots from all over the world, from Big Ben to Kovalam Beach, and these shots come in as scene transitions. Moreover, the film, which has 8 heroines, is one of the few Malayalam films to pass the Bechdel test…okay, thallunnathinum oru athirund.
#2 : Krishnanum Radhayum
Genre: Starts off as a Romcom, shifts into Thriller mode
Plot: John and Radha get married against their families’ wishes and move into a rented house. The rest of the film focuses on the problems they encounter as a result of their decision.
Review: The film takes a deep dive into religion as a social construct. John and Radha are polar opposites in their approach toward spirituality and their varied personalities allow the script to divulge into interesting debates around religion and God. The biggest strength of the film is Pandit’s comic timing, but it’s also the film’s biggest drawback – as no one else in the cast is able to match up to his timing, thereby reducing the impact of the comedy sequences. The beautifully choreographed Rathri Shubharathri is one to keep on your playlist, for it guarantees a good night’s sleep at any time of day (just like the film).
#1: Superstar Santhosh Pandit
Genre: Masala Star Vehicle
Plot: Jithu Bhai is a chocolate entrepreneur with a heart of gold. The film takes us through the various situations he hands himself in, as a result of being a selfless cutie.
Review: The film professes altruism as a way of life, and also takes a plunge into the world of business – aspiring marketers will appreciate how Jithu Bhai tweaks his retail strategy to boost the sales of his chocolates and take a step ahead of his competitors. Santhosh Pandit the director is at much more ease here – post analysing the audience’s reaction to Krishnanum Radhayum, he amps up fan-fodder moments (read fights, romantic songs, punch dialogues) and reduces the occurrence of ‘normal’ scenes. He also produces an international soundtrack, which ranges from Gujarathi bhajans to English pop numbers. All in all, a complete package!
There are two more films in his filmography that I haven’t covered in this list: Urukku Satheeshan and Broker Premachandrante Leelavilasangal. Unfortunately (phew!) we couldn’t lay our hands on these films – they weren’t available anywhere on the internet :/
However, you must check out two things: One, the earworm songs of BPL; two, Urukku Satheeshan’s 12-minute trailer (which almost follows the 3-act structure). Legend has it that the Urukku Satheeshan trailer was couriered to Guinness for a ‘Longest Trailer’ entry. But they couldn’t convert the record, as the Postal guys mistakenly delivered the thing off at Guinness Pakru’s place. If anyone reading this has a digital copy of the aforementioned films, please upload it on YouTube for the benefit of the common public.
Having gone through his body of work, I have one takeaway: Pandit may be a bad (okay, DISASTROUS) filmmaker, but he’s a genius businessman. Irrespective of his financial growth over the releases, he has maintained a budget of 5 Lakhs per film (apparent from the opening credits of each film). And this self-inflicted ‘constraint’ gives him a free license to purposefully create below-par content, which will once again be consumed by a large section of the audience… which paradoxically makes him more money!
Of late, he’s also learnt to utilise YouTube as a revenue source and self-branding platform – he now uploads his films in parts on his official YouTube channel (which increases total views) and at the end of every part there is a clip of him at a social function (say, inaugurating a shop), probably aimed to make people aware that he is respected by a segment of his viewers. Aaloru cheriya pwoli thanne.
So, what’s your favourite Santhosh Pandit memory?