What to expect in Malayankunju was already revealed before its release — that it is the story about a man’s survival instincts when a landslip buries him several feet under the ground. The imminent tragedy lurks at the back of the viewers’ minds as they watch the film. But there is more to this Fahadh Faasil-starrer than just being a survival drama, a rare genre in Malayalam cinema.
Written by Mahesh Narayanan and directed by debutant Sajimon, the film is set in a hilly terrain during a monsoon.
The protagonist, Anikuttan/Anilkumar (Fahadh Faasil), lives with his mother and makes a living by repairing electronic goods. He is a recluse, perhaps because of his bitter past. The ill-tempered Anikuttan works and sleeps at odd hours. Even worse, he is a casteist who looks down upon people from other castes. He can’t even stand the cry of a new-born, Ponni, in the neighbourhood, as she belongs to a different community. And that is when his world turns upside down, literally. But as he scrambles to make his way to the surface, it is the same child’s cry that guides him.
The well-paced first half effectively captures the life of people, who are used to the devastating effects of Nature’s fury. The timing of the landslip takes viewers by surprise and before they know it, they are with Anikuttan, trapped in the debris.
The behind-the-scenes video has already revealed that the entire sequence has been shot in a set built in a studio in Kochi. Watching the scenes on the big-screen is an overwhelming experience, thanks to some astonishing art work by the production design team led by Jothish Shankar and camera work by Mahesh, his first as a cinematographer. The lighting — rather the lack of it — and the surrounding voices and noises enhance the cinematic feel. Those are the moments when you realise the beauty of a theatrical experience, when compared to watching a film on an OTT platform.
The movie is being promoted as an A R Rahman musical, as the maestro is back in Malayalam cinema after three decades. His stamp is definitely there, be it in the opening credits or the soothing melodies. However, in the scenes where Anikuttan struggles to make his way up, one wonders if the background score overpowers the sequence. Isn’t silence the best sound in certain portions?
In his first Malayalam theatrical release after two years, Fahadh is solid as always and brilliantly emotes the pain, anguish and redemption of Anikuttan as he goes through a life-changing experience. Although it is a Fahadh-show all the way, characters played by Jaffer Idukki, Indrans, Rajisha Vijayan and debutant Jaya Kurup (as Anikuttan’s mother) are also integral to the narrative.
A story about rebirth and redemption, the film also gives us certain subtle insights that are well-incorporated into the tight script and storytelling.; be it Mother Nature losing the forest cover or the need to condemn casteism. Malayankunju is a lesson on what it takes to survive in a mishap, depicted without melodrama.
Malayankunjuis currently playing in theatres