5 Years ago, around this time there was another Onam release in Malayalam that marked the debut of director Basil Joseph; Kunjiramayanam. The first half of, this year’s first Onam release Maniyarayile Ashokan directed by Shamzu Zayba, reminded me of that fun experience I had while watching Kunjiramayanam. The characterizations are eccentric and a lot of quirks are there to keep the movie in that fun zone. But the second half of the movie has a different tone altogether. Somewhere I felt that this tone shift, which was trying too much to enter the motivational feel-good zone reduced the charm of an otherwise easy entertainer.
Like the title suggests, Ashokan is our central protagonist. He is looking for alliances in conventional ways. But things weren’t working out. After a lot of heartbreaks and disappointments, he was finally all set for marriage and that was the time when his family realized about an issue in his horoscope. How this entry of the new problem affects the life of Ashokan is what we see in Maniyarayile Ashokan.
Colorful visuals, steady flow of background score, and rhythmic cuts in the early portions makes Maniyarayile Ashokan that conventional entertainer one expects to see in a festive mood. Even though the humor is on the typical side, it never affects the light-hearted comical pitch of the movie. Post the half-way point, there is a new track opening up in the movie that addresses the depressed psychological state of our hero. As an idea to develop a story, this particular track we see in the movie is indeed a peculiar one. And to be honest, I was looking forward to seeing how it will evolve. But like I said, it had an extremely different emotional tone from whatever we were seeing till that point and that stark difference causes some issues.
Written by Vineeth Krishnan, Maniyarayile Ashokan’s high points are its witty moments that happen in the fast-paced first half. Shamzu Zayba gives it that entertaining treatment through slow motion and colorful visuals. The Unnimaya song and the story behind that character is actually the element that reminded me of Kunjiramayanam. When the movie goes closer to Ashokan, the treatment was somehow losing the grip and even though the movie is trying to make us empathize with our hero, we don’t really feel for him. There is this idea to show that ironic situation where the seemingly abnormal things becoming emotionally sensible. But they couldn’t land those ideas smoothly. And when the self-realization and other “feel-good” elements start to flow, you would be able to guess the story easily. The songs here are lovely to view and listen to.
In terms of the physicality of the character, Jacob Gregory is that relatable bachelor next door. Through his expressions, he conveyed the emotional state of Ashokan. His dialogue delivery at times felt very stiff. There was this tendency to say things exactly the way it was written in the script (even Dulquer Salmaan had the same issue). Krishna Shankar yet again plays the role of the hero’s friend. Some may find his style repetitive, but it suited the movie so, no complaints. Shine Tom Chacko is there as Ashokan’s friend Shaiju and that character’s personal story was supposed to have an impact on Ashokan’s story and I felt they sort of ignored it. Anupama Parameshwaran as Shyama was fine. Vijayaraghavan as Ashokan’s father and Sreelakshmi as his mother were also memorable.
Maniyarayile Ashokan is a passable fun film that aspires to be a feel-good drama. It would have been a refreshing experiment if the treatment given to Ashokan’s emotional struggle in the second half was more polished on a making level.
It would have been a refreshing experiment if the treatment given to Ashokan’s emotional struggle in the second half was more polished on a making level.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended