Maniyarayile Ashokan(Malayalam, Netflix)
Starring Jacob Gregory as Ashokan,Anupama Parameswaran as Shyama
Directed by Shamzu Zayba
Rating: * ½
You know that film which comes once in a blue moon to annoy the hell out of you? This is it. Maniyarayile Ashokan is one of those unbearably arty films, the kind that makes perfect sense to the creative minds involved in its making, and to no one else. It is bland, dull, pretentious and at times thoroughly obnoxious.
At the start when we meet our hero Ashokan(Jacob Gregory who is one of the film’s producers and hence his advantageous position in the plot) as he dreams of his wedding night. Here we get to hear one of the most vulgar sexual innuendos in recent times. “It creaks a lot I think it needs oiling…the door, I mean.”
Let’s stop here to wonder why films about young men and women desperate to get married is such a big issue in Malayalam cinema. Kerala is an educated state with a high literacy level . Why the obsession with getting married? In Maniyarayile Ashokan this obsession crosses over into the province of the perversely preposterous when Ashokan in his desperation to find a bride, falls for astrological mumbo-jumbo marries a banana plantain.
Ha ha? Not quite. I got the queasy feeling that while I was laughing the people on the screen were laughing back at us.
The last time someone married a tree on screen we got a film as profoundly tragic as Aparna Sen’s Sati with Shabana Azmi giving a stellar performance. Nothing about Maniyarayile Ashokan or its lead player Jacob Gregory is even remotely stellar. For starters, the director shows no command over his characters’ language or destiny. Whether it is Gregory or his gaggle of cousins and friends, they all seem to be discussing only their marriage and, wink wink, sex lives. All this, I am sure, must have seemed exceedingly cute on paper. On-screen it is hideously improper and unaesthetic .
A lot of the “family scenes” that Malayalam cinema specializes in is done here in the spirit of a free-for-all vacation where no one knows who’s who or why they are there in the first. Cousins drop in and leave before can comprehend their relevance. Soon I gave up on trying to figure out the characters and began wondering why this film was made in the first made. The makers must have thought it would be standard festival fare. And it probably will be. Incomprehensible balderdash is high on festival lists.
The ever-dependable star-actor Dulquer Salman who is producer on this pretentious cornball of a film makes a guest appearance. But sorry . not even God or Dulquer can save Maniyarayile Ashokan from being what it is.
A tonally confused mess with the Kerala greenery serving as a last-bid pacifier.