Ambili Review: In celebration of the misfit

Ambili is a man of marginal IQ, an easy-to-fool fella and the village weirdo. He goofs around with kids, talks to his teddy and writes senseless poetry. Not a totally unexplored premise; yet the hero of Johnpaul George’s second film is in a different league when it comes to celebrating misfits. We see layers in a seemingly-simple character as the director unravels his world, inch by inch, with gentle care. The storyline is suffused with tenderness, but there are no extra toppings - no uproarious antics or tearjerker tracks. Ambili exudes warmth and compassion, but in clearly-measured volumes, making it a genuine, heart-warming portrayal.

We first see Ambili sleeping peacefully, a wisp of a smile on his face. Son of a late soldier, he lives alone after the demise of his parents in a house buried in the verdure of rural Kattapana. We see some exploiting his goodness and some using him as their favourite errand boy, but Ambili remains incurably benign. He unconditionally loves his childhood friends Tina (Tanvi Ram) and Bobby (Naveen Nazim), who are siblings.

While Bobby drifts away over the years, Tina becomes his anchor, lighting up his life with her uncorrupted affection. While their love brings in the conflict quotient, the rest of the film explores some questions on the desirable aspects of life.

The screenplay takes its own sweet time to set the mood before picking up a steady pace. It may seem a little slow, but the film never loses its cinematic momentum.

Its transition into a road movie in the second half is so swift but the director maintains its unrushed rhythm there too, which seems intentional. Ambili is also one film where music stays well-connected to its soul. Each interlude and every cascade of notes add to the narrative and Vishnu Vijay has done a remarkable job as the composer. Sharan Velayudan’s cinematography is equally commendable as it painstakingly documents the colours and contours of Ambili’s world.

Soubin Shahir brings alive Ambili, a blend of naivety and grit, like a graceful symphony. He makes sure that the loneliness is not lost in the goofy body language, making it very palpable at times. Newbies Naveen and Tanvi too have handled their characters with a certain level of finesse, making Ambili a true winner.

Navamy Sudhish

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Printable version | May 29, 2022 5:11:46 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/in-celebration-of-the-misfit/article28981467.ece