Film: 22 Female Kottayam (Malayalam)

Cast: Rima Kallingal, Fahad Fazil, Pratap Pothen

Director: Aashiq Abu

The Salt n' Pepper guy has opened another cache of flavours. Sour and bitter this time, with a pinch of sugar. Director Aashiq Abu deftly adds each, in requisite quantity, at the appropriate time to 22 Female Kottayam , whipping up an explosion of tastes, which lingers.

Watch it for the disquiet that wells up inside as the film progresses.

No other Malayalam movie has evoked that of late. Watch it also for Rima Kallingal and Fahad Fazil, who make a surefooted entry to the good actors' club.

Rima plays Tessa Abraham, a nurse working in Bangalore, but bent on counting her salary in Canadian dollars. Visa troubles pop up, but are ironed out by a consultancy managed by Cyril (Fahad). Timely help leads to love, live-in, and then ruthless deceit.

Life plumbs to dark depths, but the kind-hearted “Kottayamkaari Christiani” soaks up trauma, adds more steel to her will and returns, baying for blood. The plot may sound hackneyed, but its treatment is crisp, rendering enough intrigue.

Abu bends many taboos. The damsels are not cloaked in modesty and at times the banter between Tessa and her friends gets raunchy. Eyebrows are not arched when people enter live-in relationships, or even when sex is bartered for favours. But ‘old-fashioned' attraction, and the intense love it blossoms into, shoulders the story.

The hatred of the deceived is equally searing, making the shocking climax believable.

The senior actors — T.G. Ravi, Sathaar, and Pratap Pothen — get to play the good, the bad, and the ugly, and they snugly fit in.

The junior lot, mostly Tessa's friends and sister, are sturdy props to the narrative. Abhilash Kumar and Shyam Pushkaran offer food for thought throughout their script (those familiar with Mayavi, Raju, and Radha, have something to chew on). Conversations rarely drag or spur a yawn.

Names of some movies, Hollywood and Hindi, scrolled up in the final credits. Inspirations, possibly. Yet, Malayalam cinema shouldn't mind. Even a pebble thrown into shallow, placid waters is bound to create a stir. Hopefully, the ripples won't die down any time soon.

Smitha Pylee