Mammoothy’s CM Act Is One-up on Anil Kapoor’s Nayak

One(Malayalam,Netflix)

Starring    Mammootty, Murali Gopy, Joju George, Siddique, Mathew Thomas, Ishaani Krishna, Gayatri Arun and Nimisha Sajayan

Directed  by Santosh Viswanath

Rating: ***

Hold your horses, all you Mammoothy devotees. The  thundering thespian does  not  make his entry until  half an hour  into the plot.

And what a  grand entry it is! Mamoothy’s intro  as the CM of  Kerala has obviously been cannibalized  by  writers  Bobby & Sanjay from their earlier 2014  screenplay  in  How Old Are  You where Manju Warrior  gets an  invitation from  the President Of India.

I don’t  mind  the  cross-apery as long as it is  for a noble  cause. The idea of a  powerful politician giving a patient ear to   the common man is  well executed in  both the  Bobby-Sanjay screenplays.This is  hot stuff, thoughtful and  forceful.

One is  far  more ambitious than How Old Are You. A state awakens to a Facebook post by a young man Sanal(Mathew Thomas,  so   cogent  in  Kumbalangi Nights) who questions the State’s Chief Minister for the  plight of the  workingclass .

The film opens with a  food delivery man(Salim Kumar) being subjected to customary abuse and  ending up in  hospital. This is  the trigger point for his  son Sanal to angrily question  the  state  administration, and also for  an unlikely friendship between  the  Chief Minister and the young boy Sanal.

They share  thoughts and peanuts. It is a  heartwarming fantasy friendship and  a warm  wallop of  wishful thinking about our  politicians getting down from their high horses.I wish   the entire focus of the plot was the CM’s bonding with the  workingclass  boy. Instead  director Santosh Viswanath  hops skips  and jumps into  parliamentary  machinations and  ministerial  designs, all of which  looks tragically  planted and artificial when  weighed against the sheer purity of  the  core relationship between the governor and  the governed.

The plot propels  ahead with way too much  baggage that weighs it down, rendering it enfeebled and  manufactured.  That whole  subplot about the CM Kaddakal Chandran’s relationship with his sister  is  half-baked sketchy and  finally  inconsequential. Nimisha  Sajayan who  was  so central to  The Great Indian  Kitchen, is here reduced to  a shadowy sisterly act.

 Better  developed is  the CM’s relationship  with his  friend, right-hand man and closest political ally  Baby(Joju George). The  two men say a lot to one another  without speaking across the  venomous cabinet meetings  .Murali Gopi as  the opposition leader exudes  just the right proportions of  cunning and scheming.Otherwise.selfcontrol  is  in short  supply  in this  bombastic drama. But  with Mammoothy around  the  rest of the cast has no other option but to  tone it down.

Mamoothy is quietly powerful, restrained and indignant, bridled and  yet impatient to break  free from the    restrictions that politics  places on those who  want to make  a difference.

I like what One has to say  about the  voters’ right to  recall incompetent corrupt  politicians.  But  the  script is  too  scattered, to  anxious to  draw a wide arc when a more intimate  character-study  would have served the purpose .A  little  bit more of  that selfcontrol we see in Mammoothy’s performance  would have gone  a long way in humanizing the  film beyond its towering protagonist.

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