Twenty or twenty-five years ago, the Malayalam commercial cinema came up with a hero who boasted about masculinity, lineage and many other things that now have become a serious debate among people who read the politics of movies. The new movie Ayyappanum Koshiyum directed by Sachy, starring Prithviraj and Biju Menon may not be that politically correct movie if you analyze it word by word, but there is this mocking of masculinity done within the framework of a commercial mass masala movie and I have to say that this shift in the narrative is appreciable. Just like Driving License, some may feel that the climax could have been a little more intense, but the duel we see here begins from the very beginning of the movie and that in a way works in favor of this movie.
Koshi Kurien is a retired havildar from the Indian Army. On his way to Ooty via Attappadi, Koshi was carrying liqueur and unfortunately, the routine joint checking of the police and the excise department catches him for carrying liqueur in a prohibited zone. The ego of Koshi complicated things and his revenge plans against Ayyappan Nair who registered his arrest was even more ego-driven. The extent to which this rivalry evolves is the core of Sachy’s Ayyappanum Koshiyum.
The discussion about the highly testosterone-driven narratives and the regressive jokes in mainstream movies have been happening for a while now. In Chocolate, Sachy’s first movie as a writer, the hero is shutting the heroine by threatening her that he will make her pregnant. Prithviraj himself later realized the problematic element in such hero representation and decided not to endorse such regressive statements. Ayyappanum Koshiyum is very much in that masculine space. But what I liked about the movie is that it wasn’t actually celebrating the masculinity which at one point was the driving force of hit Malayalam films. In the trailer when Koshi talks with pride about the thickness of his blood, we sense the old school “real man” vibe. But when I saw it in theatre, the impact was different and you won’t feel like clapping for a heroic statement. Koshi, who can be considered as that equivalent of almost all the chauvinistic male characters writer-director Ranjith has written in his prime is becoming clueless in front of an Ayyappan Nair who doesn’t have any of the privileges and lineage that Koshi boasts about.
Last year when I saw 9 and Brother’s Day I did mention the extremely artificial dialogue delivery of Prithviraj Sukumaran. One thing I really loved about Driving License was the ease with which he performed and said the lines offered to him. If you also had that opinion that Prithviraj was flowing smoothly in Driving License in comparison to his other recent performances, I would say Ayyappanum Koshiyum has an even more refined and smooth Prithviraj. Koshi is not a one-dimensional character if you look at the way the character reacts to things in the second half and Prithviraj has done a really good job in making him that humane character who knows that certain decisions he made were wrong. The ever so dependable Biju Menon, who underplayed the role of Ayyappan Nair is brilliant in my opinion. Ayyappan might well be a man of minimal words, but Biju Menon makes sure he is that tough opponent Koshi will ever face in his life. Ranjith as Koshi’s father Kurien is convincing in terms of looks; it’s just that I felt like he should have performed in 1.5x speed. Anil Nair as the senior police officer was extremely good. Gaury Nandha as Ayyappan Nair’s wife was convincing and it was a character that had a lot of relevance and impact in the storyline. Anu Mohan, Shaju Sreedhar, Aji John, Anna Reshma Rajan, and a lot more names are there in the long list of actors here.
Sachy has always gone for movies that were on the entertaining side alone. He has a knack to create appealing humor in the narrative and that always made his movies engaging. His earlier creations had the element of conflict in a very black and white way where there was an easy solution to problems. But his last two films as a writer had this inclination towards entering a gray conflict zone. Even though Driving License and Ayyappanum Koshiyum have this basic concept of an ego clash between two males, Ayyappanum Koshiyum is a more refined script. The movie is around 170+ minutes long and I never felt the movie was getting dragged at any point. And there is also this intention to redefine the masculine heroism. At one point Ayyappan Nair asks Koshi whether his entire family are born idiots after meeting Koshi’s father Kurien, and it felt like a slap on the face of a lot of problematic iconic characters. At a time when “Thappad” is all set for release, I am kind of sure Prithviraj will be getting a lot of questions about one particular slap in the movie. Sudeep Elamon’s cinematography is really effective and it had a massive role in showing that scale of the clash between these two extremely egoistic men. Jakes Bejoy’s music had the texture of the landscape and that sort of sustains the mood even when the movie fades into a song. The background score also enhances the impact of the clash.
Sachy has not really tried to play it safe here. So the disagreements about certain statements in the movie will definitely be there. But I was happy to see a mainstream “Mass” Malayalam cinema doing all the masculine stuff, and also making fun of the “manliness” concept.
I was happy to see a mainstream “Mass” Malayalam cinema doing all the masculine stuff, and also making fun of the “manliness” concept.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended