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Fahadh Faasil’s 7 Finest Performances

Fahadh Faasil’s 7  Finest Performances

Maheshinte Prathikaaram(2016)

5 years  before Fahadh Faasil and director Dileesh Pothan  got together for  the  neocladssic Joji, they collaborated on this  intriguing ….what??? Love story?  Revenge Drama? Comedy on caste  clashes?   Maheshinte Prathikaaram is all of this. It’s a gravity-defying miracle, in  more ways than  one.

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That  Dileesh Pothan takes a one-liner from a newspaper—a  man vows  never to  wear  chappals  until he avenges the public insult—and  turns it into an amalgamation of multiple genres is a gravity defying feat. That  he  often brings humour into the gravity  of the theme is  another  achievement,  all possible  because  of  its lead actor .

Fahadh  Faasil plays Mahesh  as  smalltown smalltime photographer with minimum  ambitions . It is an ambitious  performance. Fahadh Faasil finds a  core of heroic dignity in  a man who is  uncommonly common.  Director Dileesh Pothan is  not of much help.

His  plot is  scattered  in  every direction. For a while it seems  Mahesh’s  vendetta against Jimson(Shujith Shankar) is  forgotten as he  spends  incommensurate  time wooing Jimson’s  sister Jimsy(Aparna  Balamurli). It all comes together in a combative climax  which  is a feast of fury. But the way Mahesh and  Jimson call it a truce  makes the  plot appear  like  a joke  on itself.

This  film  is  nowhere near what Dileesh and Fahadh  achieved in  Joji. But remarkable  for  showcasing Fahadh’s proclivity to  plunge deep into his character  no matter how shallow  inconsistent and insincere  it may be.

Joji (2021)

Is  Fahadh Faasil  India’s greatest living actor? In film after film, he proves himself a fearless peerless seamless actor who merges into his characters like water in a  stream. And better still, flows down that stream where the human condition merges with the very bedrock of existence.

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And look at where  Fahadh Faasil has arrived in Joji! Shakespeare’s Macbeth gets the treatment which I am sure would make Shakespeare himself envious. Joji is a dark brooding translocation of the Shakspearean tragedy with unexpected bursts of warmth and humour which Shakespeare could have never imagined.Magically the characters in Syam Pushkaran’s screenplay are relocated from their Shakespearean bleakness to a Malayali verdancy.

The overpowering greenery of rural Kerala has always served as a compelling counterpoint to the dramatic tensions so organically generated in Malayalam films. The tension has never been more palpable as it is in Joji.

You can cut it with a knife and all you will see are bloodless wounds in the family of  Kuttappan P K Panachel(Sunny PN), a tyrannical patriarch who runs the family business with a tight fist and an immovable grip over his three sons. While one of them, a drunken divorced bully named  Jomon(Baburaj)  loves his mean-spirited father unconditionally, the quieter Jaison(played brilliantly by  Joji Mundakayam) has Daddy issues that he has long suppressed within himself.It is the youngest son, a wastrel named Joji who is the focus of the radiantly inky plot.

Joji is of course played by the great Fahadh Faasil who brings to the character a kind of patriarchal bitterness that manifests itself in not-expected burst of devastating violence. This is director Dileesh Pothan’s third directorial with Fahadh(after  Maheshinte Prathikaaram and  Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum) and  by far the most reflective, moody, sinister , subtle  and sublime.

Though Macbeth is  an inherently violent tale  of patricide and  Oedipal guilt,  Pothan’s film does away with the  vileness  of  the protgonist’s deeds  by  introducing a  kind  a dithering  juvenilia   into  Jijo’s character. His chosen weapon of  violence is an airgun and his selected hideaway is a half-dug well. Fahadh’s Jijo is an  unlikely  villain and hence all the more devastating.

He  is  also  an unlikely Shakespearean hero who has  in all probability never  heard of Shakespeare.How unlike  Vishal Bhardwaj’s  Macbeth(Maqbool) where all the  main characters behaved as if they had graduated in Shakespearean  literature.

Joji is a  remarkably artless tragedy filled with a  looming respect for  the spaces that divide individuals within  the same family. Cinematographer  Shyju Khalid  creates a sense  of distance and  isolation by capturing characters who often sit physically distanced  from  one another   in the family mansion.

In one striking shot we see Joji and his  Bhabhi in two different adjacent rooms  in the same frame. Clearly  the frames are designed for the  big screen. But what to do? If wishes were horses, Joji  would be riding them, not selling them without his  father’s knowledge.The relationship between Joji  and his sister-in-law(Unnimaya Prasad) seems  so ambiguous precisely because it doesn’t  try to be  complicated.

Familial complications, says  Dileesh Pothan are  alibis  we generate  to  justify and rationalize our greed and covetousness. Replete  with a wondrous images of everyday poetry(see Joji examining his father’s medical pills  of different colours) , Joji is  a film that  we all will go back to in the coming years wondering, How did we miss this and that?!  For now don’t miss this great film with one of India’s greatest actors giving one of his  greatest performances  in a film that doesn’t aspire to greatness. It just gets  there without straining to do so.

Njan Prakashan(2018)

This  is  actually two films fused into one. In the  first-half Fahadh Faasil plays  a an overweening  under-gifted closet-fraudster   going  all-out to woo  a nurse so  she  can serve as   his  passport  into the West.

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The  first-half brims over with a rare  breed  of humour. Director  Sathyan Anthikad  doesn’t allow himself to judge  this  slightly slimy man who doesn’t think twice before using anyone who canhelp him realize hisdreams. Fahadh Faasil plays  the cheesy  hero with a relish,almost savouring every bit of his character’s  lack of a conscience.

In  the  second-half  he  moves into a completely  different gear when he  serves a  nurse to a headstrong  rich little girl Tina(Devika) who brings  out the humane side of  Fahadh’s character. The transformation neither  sudden  nor unconvincing. Fahadh Faasil plays the character  of  the  con-man turned  into a caring  caregiver  with exceptional empathy.

Fahadh and  director  Anthikad had gotten together earlier for  Oru Indian Pranayakatha. But their collaboration really came to fruition in this  beautiful drama  of  humanism versus selfcentredness.

Annayum Rasoolam(2013)

This  is  a  simple story lifted to greatness Some films are  born great.Others have greatness thrust upon them. Were it not for the wonderful  Fahadh Faasil  what would  Annayum Rasoolambe?

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I  am not too sure of  the answer to that. The  kind of implosive energy that the actor  brings to his role of an  obsessive  unrelenting lover(if the  film was made today he would be called a stalker)  transports the satiny tiptoeing sneaky  romance to the stratosphere  of  extra-specialness.

This extraordinary level of  commitment seen  in the  film’s hero  Rasool  is fluently transposed  to the narrative which never falters even as Rasool’s passion  gathers momentum in a swoop of swooning ecstasy.

This is a man in love, who ferries every single day from Kochi so that he can  be on the  boat  with the  girl of his dreams Anna(Andreah  Jeremiah) as she travels home. The  ritual becomes so  rigid that  other  passengers  on  the  boat  begin to recognize Rasool.“Don’t  you  have  a job?”  an elderly lady asks, not  impolitely.

Rasool is  not the least embarrassed  if he seems  at  a loose end. Dammit, he is love!  Can’t the world understand his feelings?The narrative unfolds through the voice of Rasool’s friend Ashley(Sunny Wayne). The characterization of  Rasool’ s friends is in a league of their own. They are committed quirky and querulous.

They gave Rasool  sound advice.  “Why do you  want to  fall in love with a girl whim you have to follow every day  ona boat and who doesn’t even look at you?”Why  does a love that requires herculean volumes  of self-abnegation always  seem  like true love?

Fahadh Faasil, that magician of  an actor, expresses Rasool’s  earnest  feelings of  love with  a blend of  rhapsody and reality. He knows he is  on slippery ground, specially because of their differing  religious  beliefs. But he  also knows that  if loses he Anna  he loses his  chance to be happy in love.

He would rather take the chance.Of course like all great  love stories, Annayun Rasoolam comes  to a tragic end. But not before we  are tansported  into a world of furtive  glances and  hurried  touches that  are as  fleeting as that breeze  that blows  off  the Kerala beaches.

Director  Rajeev Ravi gives an unhurried languorous feel to those  hurried  fleeting  moments  between Rasool and Anna  as he catches her in her workplace , a saree shop, on the boat as she goes  home, in the church and at home.By the time Rasol’s romantic dreams  have  had their fill, the film is so suffused with the  aura of love  and  ‘foreverness’  that you pray  it won’t take the tragic route.

Alas, what is a  good love story without  a tragic finale? And what  is a routine romance without Fahadh Faasil to uplift its mood from the mundane to the meditative and melancholic?Director  Rajeev Ravi who is  a firstrate cinematographer leaves the  luminous lensing to Madhu Neelankandan who  captures  the workingclass rhythm of  romance  with much the same fluency and  anxiety as Mani Ratnam’s  Alai Payudhe.  Its   a  dreamlike world inhabited by sweaty commuters and idlers  who pick fights because they have  nothing better to  do. The  next Fahaad Faasil  being    still some  time away.

 Trance(2020)

the latest Malayalam film to  prove Kerala’s supremacy in powerful  ceiling-shattering  content and  performances,  is  a  pioneering  achievement, tearing as  it does into the innards  of fake religiosity  where billions of bucks are generated  by exploiting the weak and the vulnerable and where  faith is forever flogged to death.With a towering performance by Fahadh Faasil in  the  lead, Trance sweeps us  into a world of depraved exploitation . Parts of the  plot are purely pulp. But then what is wrong with pulp when it suits  the narrative’s purposes so well?

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The  lengthy  film of almost 3 hours, begins like  a desi Rain Man with  Fawad’s petty  motivational-speaker  character Viju Prasad  looking after  his psychologically disturbed suicidal brother(Sreenath Bhasi).

It then veers  viciously into  a  brown-man’s  version  of Jane Campion’s  Holy Smoke where   Viju is trapped into  doing  a staged  (fake) holy miracles  .The  exploitation of  religious sentiments  earlier done  half-heartedly in Hindi films like  OMG and  PK is  stripped  of all veneer  of  politeness.What we see  is a group of  avaricious power brokers setting up  con-props for a world hungering for change.

The villainous caucus(played by Tamil filmmaker Gautham Menon,  Dileesh PothanChemban Vinod  Jose)  lack finesse  in  chracterization and  portrayal. They  could be  a trio of  villains in  any  film  about crime and punishment.It  doesn’t take  long for us to realize  that the campy villains  are seen to be  part  of the  larger drama  of grotesquerie that  the sprawling  plot  systematically  dismantles.  Standing at the centre  of   the  diabolic  debris is Fahaad Faasil.

Magnificently askew and offbeam  ,he sweeps all the jerkiness  in the narration under the carpet  making us look not at the  faults(albeit glaring) but the larger  picture  of  merchandised religiosity. Nazriya Nazeem provides  some romantic  succour to the  battered hero very late in the  film. She  comes in  at a time when Viju  now transformed to Pastor Joshua Carlton is  plunging  into the abyss.The  last half an hour  where  the parody pastor must perform a  holy miracle to wake  up  a dead child, reminded  me of Dev Anand  at the end  of Guide.

C  U Soon

Thank God for happy endings. Well, almost. This thriller about an online dating plan gone horribly wrong, has a whole lot of balls, plus a steadily beating heart. And it ends on a bright note. We need that.

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The important detail that we must remember is that the whole 98-minute film has been shot on IPhones. So now we finally know why they are called smartphones. This is as smart a thriller as they come with some of Malayalam cinema’s finest young talent pitching in with a conviction born out of isolation.

Not surprisingly the well thought-out thriller simulates a taut tempo at a slow burn temperature. Since the world is under a lockdown none of the characters is in a hurry to go anywhere. The plot, done up entirely in a virtual format, takes its time to whip up a frenetic anxiety.

By the time we reach the devastating climax, there is no escaping from the film’s vice-like grip on our senses. A piano-based deceptively calm and soothing background score by Gopi Sunder goes a long way in getting our undivided attention as love-stuck Jimmy (Roshan Mathew) befriends the troubled Anu (Darshana Rajendran) in Dubai on the digital platform. Remarkably the entire romance and the horrific aftermath unfolds through images on computers and phones.

This is an ingenious invention born out of necessity as the film is shot in quarantine. At the same time that sense of virtual disengagement gives a muscular immediacy to the narrative.The actors get into the mysterious, melancholic mood effortlessly. I could almost feel Roshan Mathew and Darshana Rajendran’s growing fondness. Mathew, so brilliant recently in MoothonKapela and Choked, is growing into one of the most interesting actors in the country.But here it is the redoubtably Fahadh Faasil who holds this robust thriller together.

The way his muted misogyny—his horribly rude attitude towards his girlfriend—melts and merges into a mass of repentance and guilt, is a journey undertaken by an actor who doesn’t stop at anything in bringing his character’s most secret demons on the table.

C U Soon is a very clever yarn told through a hi-tech vision which has no room for extra baggage. This is a flab-free thriller that shows us how constructively new-age technology can be used to tell a story that won’t let go of our attention for even a second.

The last film I saw which was shot completely on the phone was Aneesh Chaganty’s brilliant Searching about a father’s frantic search for his missing daughter.In C U Soon too a girl disappears. But not for long. This is a thriller that doesn’t play out a tantalizing drama. It moves at its own volition sweeping its characters into a situation that has no room for theatrics. Just plain blunt facts plucked from newspapers. The rest is his story more than hers.

Malik

Be warned.  I think Fahadh Faasil is  among India’s most talented actors. But I  am not a fan of gangsters  being  glorified as   Robin  Hoods. It is an old trick in cinema. To  show criminals  with their hands soaked in blood, building a  school here,  and a hospital there  for the poor,  feeding  the poor at  religious places and meting out justice  to  tortured peasants…Marlon Brando did  it  40 years ago.Now its is Fahadh Faasil’s turn.

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Malik is  a  big film and I completely understand  Fahadh Faasil’s disappointment  at  the skipped theatre release. The film is stylishly mounted. The opening festivities at Sulaiman(Fahadh Faasil)’s residence  are captured in a  lengthy 12-minute shot which reminded me of the wedding in The  Godfather, as I guess it  is meant to. From this ostentatiously impressive beginning  Malik  never stops  being that  film which wants us to look at  it  without blinking.

The frames  are  littered  with  legacies  of  unspoken violence and recrimination. Cinematographer  Sanu Varghese(he  also shot the  same  director’s  first film Take Off)  makes a virtue  of  a depressing dinginess that accompanies  the narrative everywhere  it goes.

The  film is constantly  on  the  move. When we  first meet Sulaiman and his no-nonsense  wife Roselyn(played by Nimisha Sajayan who looks like  she decided to finally assert herself after serving  endless  meals  to her husband in The Great Indian Kitchen) Sulaiman wants to wash away his sins by going  on a pilgrimage.In a black-and-white CCTV-styled  sequence  he is  stopped by the cops at the airport and arrested under TADA.Director Narayanan  loathes  the linear.

Fahadh Faasil moves through the  semi-fictional bio-pic(apparently this  dupe-gooder Sulaiman  existed ) like  a drunken monk, negotiating  the protagonist’s  criminal beginnings and his   growth into a full-blown lawbreaker that comes naturally to artistes who believes only the lawless can bring justice  to the  oppressed.

There  is  also  a very  dangerous  communal  subtext here whereby  the  historically sanctioned oppression  of a community is seen as  a pretext for  outlawry.I am not sure Fawadh Faasil agrees with the  director’s moral landscape. Fahadh Faasil moves through the landmine of  moral  ambivalence  with  stealthy cautious steps.

At  the end I knew nothing about Sulaiman that I  wanted to know. What impels  such self-styled Robin Hoods into messianic  postures? Fahadh Faasil gives an exasperatingly  clammed  performance. We don’t know what Sulaiman  is thinking. We  only hear his  close associates talk about him.

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