Malayankunju is a survival drama about a man who gets trapped under the debris of what once used to be his home. Anil Kumar (Fahadh Faasil) lives in a hill-top village in Kerala. It’s a rainy season and clouds over the village are constantly rumbling, signalling a brewing storm. But, Anil is too in over his head to pay attention to the clues of his surroundings and do the right thing.
Anil, on the inside, is wallowing in the trauma of losing his father. But, on the outside, he wears a poker face, shooing away anyone who tries to get close to him. He has become bitter and unforgiving. So much so that he can’t stand the crying of a newborn infant next door.
Anil is also bigoted. He can’t stand the sight of those he considers “low-life”. He mistreats them, uses casteist slurs against them and even vents out his anger at a 28-day-old baby. Anil’s mother Shantha (Jaya Kurup) tells his uncle Surendran (Indrans) that she is worried about him. His family sees his hatred for people of other castes as some sort of mental illness. It suggests that Anil was not always a bigot. Something inside him broke with the passing of his father and he’s unable to make peace with it.
For Anil to have a shot at a second chance, he has to give up the hatred that has taken control of his heart. And for that transformation to happen, he has to undergo the process of a painful rebirth and reclaim his innocence.
Anil gets trapped under the debris of the landslide, pushing him into a well. And Anil floats inside the water like a fetus surrounded by amniotic fluid inside the mother’s womb. When the time comes for him to be re-born, he has to crawl through the canal-shaped wreckage. It’s painful and there’s no guarantee he’ll survive. Nevertheless, he has to try for a shot at life, again.
Mahesh Narayanan’s camera takes the audience along in the journey of Anil’s rebirth. And Fahadh Faasil delivers a natural performance as a complex man, who is not likeable but also not fully worthy of our contempt. The sound design of the rumbling clouds provides an effective soundscape for rain-drenched frames. And AR Rahman’s background music adds to the drama.
It must be such a pleasure to be Mahesh Naryanan and Fahadh Faasil at a time when the Indian film industry is in flux due to the unpredictable behaviour of the movie-going audience in the country. While everyone seems to be pulling their hair off to crack the code of new-age blockbusters, talents like Mahesh and Fahadh live in a cinematic oasis, exploring the myriad of human stories, pushing the boundaries of storytelling, giving society meaningful stories without coming under the pressures of the volatile market.
Some filmmakers don’t have to track trends to understand the pulse of the audience. They simply go about telling stories that capture the essence of the human condition. And that sort of storytelling would never run out of fashion. It will always remain current and appealing.