February 18, 2020 8:15:39 am
It is really fascinating to see Malayalam cinema’s growing fondness for Tamil culture. The people of Kerala have unconditionally embraced the pop culture of their neighbouring state. And that has allowed Malayalam filmmakers to seemingly make every other film with a significant number of Tamil-speaking characters.
New Malayalam film Varane Avashyamund, a romantic comedy, tells the tale of Malayalees living in Chennai. The movie is the directorial debut of Anoop Sathyan, who is the son of director Sathyan Anthikad. The premise is very straightforward: two single men and two single ladies on their separate journeys to find their soulmates. But, they all end up in the same destination.
Nikhitha (Kalyani Priyadarshan) is a modern, independent girl, but she is old-school when it comes to marriage and relationships. She is not interested in exploring the possibility of romance because she doesn’t want to be like her mother Neena (an ever beautiful Shobana). And yet she fully loves and respects Neena, who raised her as a single mother. Nikhitha is complicated. She is searching for a groom through matrimonial services, and she has already rejected an awful lot of boys.
Neena is a very romantic person, which always has been the source of her problems with her family. She eloped with a person she loved and married him. But, that marriage did not last long as she ended it soon after she had Nikhitha. And, Neena, in her late 40s or early 50s, still believes in love and continually seeks it. A mother who believes in love and its magic, and a daughter who wants to pick her partner methodically. Except for the love and care for each other, the mother and daughter seem not to share anything in common.
Meanwhile, Major Unnikrishnan (Suresh Gopi) and Bipeesh P (Dulquer Salmaan) are also diametrically opposite characters just like Neena and Nikhitha. No, they are not a father and son duo. They are just neighbours. Unnikrishnan is a retired army officer with serious anger management issues. He is a loner, never married, and his nerves defeat him when he encounters a woman. Bipeesh is a stock character that you will find in almost all romantic comedies. He is that hero who creates problems with his recklessness and forgetfulness. And then fixes the problems with his oozing charm.
Besides Bipeesh, Anoop has also featured a slew of stereotypes. For example, if you were to watch Varane Avashyamund and form an opinion about Chennai, perhaps you would assume that the city is a paradise on earth. There are no issues such as pollution and traffic jam. People in Chennai are always busy attending traditional ceremonies hosted by their friendly and all-loving Brahmin landlords. Usually, the apartment functions are all about singing and playing Carnatic music. And when the Chennaites are not attending such Carnatic music festivals in the neighbourhood, they would attend actual Carnatic music concerts. Yes, Chennai is all about filter coffee, Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam and dosa joints. Oh, yes, and there is also an overweight girl in the movie. She is as usual like a teddy bear, and her life’s purpose is to make others feel happy and good about themselves. To put it like Arjun Reddy, “fat chicks and pretty girls will make for good friends.” Stereotype, alert!
Anoop’s film, which he has also written, is rife with stereotypes. And yet, you won’t feel like complaining. When you watch the movie, it feels at least some stereotypes are not bad after all. He puts some punch in cliches. And the trick seems to be in the details.
Take, for example, the Brahmin couple. Their children have settled abroad, and the relationship vacuum in their lives makes them open the doors of their home for others. Even as the couple is steeped in tradition, they hold no judgement against non-vegetarian neighbours. One of them even asks for a sample of a beef dish from his Malayali neighbour.
Anoop also has an interesting visual sense. In a single shot, he humanizes Major Unnikrishnan. Right after Unnikrishnan reveals the tragic story of his life, there is a shot at the beach, where you see the silhouette of Unnikrishnan as if he is standing right in the middle of a venting volcano. And the backstory of Bipeesh is also a good spin. It adds a new dimension to his character.
The little stories that Anoop throws at us keep revealing new information about the characters. And mostly these stories have a tragic ending. And yet, the characters have not allowed the tragedies to define them. Anoop had enough material to turn this movie into a sob-fest. But, he keeps it very composed and even unsentimental to an extent.
Shobana and Suresh Gopi are the crowning jewels of this movie. Suresh has delivered a very memorable and moving performance after a long gap. And Shobana is a sight to behold.
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