August 6, 2016 11:52:38 am
Just after the Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power in 2014, Mithlesh Kumar Tripathi, BJP’s National Convener for art and culture proclaimed that it’s their mission to promote films that upheld Indian tradition and culture. Watching ‘Vismayam’, the Malayalam version of Telugu movie Manamadha, the statement made by the BJP leader two years ago is making sense. Additionally, one would understand the PR work for our Prime Minister has gone a level up by using in-film branding techniques.
The plot of the movie revolves around Sairam (Mohanlal), a middle-class man struggling to make ends meet, Abhiram (Viswant Duddumpudi), a studious college student who falls in love with a rich girl, Mahitha (Raina Rao), a school girl with an elevated sense of humanism and Gayathri, a home-maker.
Yes, director Chandra Shekhar Yeleti uses a distinctive narrative style, like a montage of four lives that form a complete picture when the movie ends, broadly classified under the genre called hyperlink cinema, following the likes of Radhakrishna Jagarlamudi’s acclaimed Telugu movie ‘Vedam’ starring Allu Arjun. Outplaying the movie’s form, the content is ordinary and highly conservative. Starting from the name ‘Vismayam’ meaning miracle, to promote Swacch Bharat campaign, to gender and class stereotyping, the movie cunningly reassures many notions that are disguised as ‘good values’ by the Indian middle class, especially the Hindu middle-class.
‘Vismayam’, a word often attached with godly or divine intervention in people’s life during tough situations is indeed an apt name for a movie that distinctly points out right and wrong, that too in a preachy way. But take no offence if someone asks why God’s miracles don’t work with the poorest in the society, like the villain character ‘Das’ in the movie? Gods do have class and that must be the answer. At the start of the movie, when a school-going girl hands over a bag of garbage to a street cleaner, exchanging Swacch Bharat slogans their faces beaming with pride, for a second, one could misunderstand whether the movie has actually started or is it the commercial for PM’s campaign. But only on seeing the shot just before the interval where the gigantic hoardings of Narendra Modi highlighted in the backdrop of a helpless hero in serious trouble, one would understand the real meaning of divine intervention and new ways of branding. Finally, a glimmer of hope watching a ‘house wife’, about to escape her prescribed way of life, didn’t last long when the hero, the husband, denies her freedom using some sugar-coated dialogues that reeked of gender stereotyping.
The making and script of the movie lacks conviction which is evident throughout, but a scene where Mahitha brings in two street-dwellers into a night pub to meet with the Minister’s son is like a slap in the face of reality.
Mohanlal’s Sairam character was easy on the eyes. Though his face is clearly showing weariness of ageing, his eyes still perform and the actor’s dialogue modulation is impeccable as ever. Gouthami did the mother’s role without much fuzz while Raina Rao was charming and Viswant, was nothing extra ordinary. The songs, however, never made an impact whatsoever.
‘Vismayam’ has its moments nearing the climax that can bring a sense of joy and belonging among a certain class of people and also upholds family values, but fails to find a progressive path like any art form should do, rather goes back clinging to a mythical thought-process.
Disclaimer: “Views expressed by the author are personal.”
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