For most people out there, Nilambur Ayisha is someone whom they have seen in a few films doing character roles. Her traumatic personal life and her career as a drama artist are relatively less familiar. In the movie, Ayisha, based on the real-life of Nilambur Ayisha, director Aamir Pallikkal, and writer Ashif Kakkodi focus on a phase in her life that is quite fascinating considering the element of drama in that episode. While the true story factor keeps you hooked to the content, the writing is pretty theatrical. That lack of subtlety in conveying the character’s journey is somewhere reducing the glow of this tale.
The story was set in 1988, and Ayisha is in the Middle East as a gaddama for a royal family. Because she was unfamiliar with the job and culture, Ayisha had trouble initially. In the movie, we get to see Ayisha’s life as a housemaid and her rapport with the mistress of that family. How her past comes in the way of this new chapter is what Aamir Pallikkal shows us in the film.
Towards the end of the film, when the actual character is shown, we have Prithviraj Sukumaran’s voice-over that talks about the character based on the incidents that weren’t shown in the film. But the movie’s emphasis is so much towards the empathy and sacrifice of the character that you find the voice-over conclusion an attempt to make sure that it doesn’t ignore Ayisha’s whole journey. As a movie that documented chapters in someone’s life, I think Ayisha has done a reasonably good job. Because it makes you curious to know more about the person after the movie. But as I already said, the writing is trying to cover everything on a scene order level. And there isn’t much of an effort to take it away from that straight forward flat narrative.
Manju Warrier has said in her interviews that it isn’t that typical Gulf Malayali story of suffering and sacrifices. As a director, Aamir Pallikkal tries to keep the movie in that pleasant zone. The cinematography by Vishnu Sarma captures the grandness of the lifestyle in almost every frame. What felt very odd in many places was how the dialogues were written and performed. The artist-backdrop of the central character can be an excuse to make that character say poetic lines. But Ashif Kakkodi’s dialogues are border-line bumper sticker captions. Even the screenplay structure looked very simplistic and predictable. Manju Warrier’s dance, M Jayachandran’s atypical tune, and Prabhudeva’s choreography made the Kannilu Kannilu song look unique. But the placement of that song wasn’t that smooth.
During one of the promotional interviews, Manju Warrier said that she is done playing these struggling female characters who will rise in the film’s climax. While watching Ayisha, there were moments where I felt that isn’t Manju doing the same in this movie too? But when the real-life character is revealed, that doesn’t really become a deal breaker. Coming to the portrayal of the character, she isn’t trying to impersonate anyone, and it looked like a typical Manju Warrier performance. Krishna Sankar is there with his usual humor. As the Tamil girl, Radhika was okay, while her Tamil sounded less authentic. Mona Essay, who plays the role of the mistress of the palace, was a convincing casting, and there was palpable chemistry between her and Manju.
Nilambur Ayisha is someone who hasn’t really got the limelight she deserved for being a fighting figure. And in that sense, Aamir Pallikkal’s movie Ayisha deserves to be watched. But from a cinephile perspective, it’s a movie that takes a safe path by being usual in many places. At the film’s end, I was more excited about what happened before and after this Middle East chapter in Ayisha’s life.
Nilambur Ayisha is someone who hasn't really got the limelight she deserved for being a fighting figure. And in that sense, Aamir Pallikkal's movie Ayisha deserves to be watched.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended