A few minutes into Marconi Mathai you see Jayaram smirking at the routine fare of All India Radio. Citing the example of FM stations and his face contorted into that familiar, over-the-top countenance, he says, “ updation venam updation ” (you need updation). But it doesn’t take you long to realise that you are in for a film without an iota of updation! To start with, the film is built around one of the oft-repeated tropes in Malayalam cinema: Jayaram caught in the throes of full-blown bachelorhood. And yes, he is kindness personified as usual and his family and friends are engaged in this virtuous mission of finding him a bride.
Marconi Mathai is set in the water-locked village of Vallankari, where the titular character works as a security guard in a bank. An ex-serviceman in his late 40s, he is usually seen in the company of a customary assortment of friends. The film maps the events that follow the entry of Anna, a young davani -clad girl, all innocence and effervescence, who is hired to do the cooking and cleaning at the bank.
And with all this outdated merchandise, Sanil Kalathil attempts a noble love story, a Charlie-meets-Amen kind of adventure that easily and fittingly derails in the first half itself. He gives Jayaram a golf cap and sling bag to get the boho swag right and then asks the actor to repeat himself, to bring back that hero from the comedy-melodrama blends of the 90s. And the film in its effort to look swanky and new-gen, ends up being amateurish and far too garish, breaking into orchestrated banter and musical interludes every now and then.
The director also fills his film with props, in his never-ending endeavour to create that elusive surreal ambience. But the biggest flaw of the film is its innate artificiality —everything about it looks synthetic, be it Mathai’s picture postcard cottage in an island or his love for Anna. What you see in Marconi Mathai is a very immature, one-sided infatuation and the script strives hard to elevate it into something else.
And if you are there for Vijay Sethupathi, who plays himself, you are in for some serious heartbreak. The actor, for some inexplicable reason, decides to stay in Kerala for an extended period to promote his latest Tamil film through a Malayalam FM station. He keeps talking about kaadhal and is totally wasted in his love guru RJ avatar. The logic for Sethupathi to sign the film is as puzzling as the so-called ‘romance’ between the lead characters.
While Jayaram doesn't have much to do other than mimic himself, Athmeeya Rajan delivers what’s expected of her. She plays another cliche, ‘an angel in red sari’ as one of the characters puts it, a woman duty-bound to love a man ‘who hasn't hurt a single soul’.
The film also stars the likes of Narain, Aju Varghese, Mamukoya, Sudheer Karamana, Alencier, Mallika Sukumaran and Lakshmipriya, but they all march in and out of the screen as if they are the characters of a school drama. While the camera accentuates the artificiality quotient, the background score of the film is so obsolete that at times it’s outright funny.