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Subhash K Jha Selects The Best  Malayalam Films of 2022



Bheeshma Parvam

  1. Bheeshma Parvam: This  is  probably best adaptation  of  The Godfather in  recent years. Director  Amal Neerad  doesn’t let  us forget that this is  his take  on Francis  Coppola’s The  Godfather.And what a take it is!  This  masterly Malayali  mafia movie is  self-explanatory. Its muted violence is  stifling .It creates a world so  tightly wound around its own  heritage  of successive violence that the family unit  threatens  to fall apart.Sweeping in its melodrama,arching in its velocity and  untameable  in  its  epic  ambitions Bheema Parvam  hurls us  into the world  of  Michael(no coincidence  this Michael name-calling) Anjootty, kicking dragging and screaming.The narrative is custom-built to accommodate  all  the characters  from The Godfather into the Malayali household.And  it’s all done  with a chaotic perspective on  the  moral and ethical  dynamics  of  extra-constitutional  violence.Even  if  one is  familiar with  the  original  material  this  ravishing remake takes you by surprise with its distending  temperament and  a choleric  enormity whereby the  violence comes  in  revealing  welters  rather than as  rule.
  2. Salute: The  Write  Brothers Bobby  & Sanjay are the real  heroes of this   clenched  tale  of  the teacher and the taut. Interestingly two  brothers in the police force,  ideologically far removed from one another ,are at the crux of a  film that prods at the  audiences’ collective  conscience while creating an edge-of-the-seat thriller about  guilt and  redemption. Is Salute the best screenplay that Bobby and Sanjay have written to date? The answer would have been  a resounding    yes, were  it not for a relatively  lame endgame which left me  feeling  a wee cheated  thought  not betrayed.The narrative  has  too much going for itself to  suffer from a post-climactic  depression. I  would say Salute survives the  end-blow  most gracefully, thank you.The pacing is  consciously  languorous , as  though the pressures to come on the drama of ideological  warfare need  ample breathing space to grow. Grow,  the narrative does with astute velocity. While the  last-half hour is compromised,  the  narrative remains  partly breathless  but    pertly pacy  all through.Sreekar Prasad’s editing is firstrate  with the  plot  moving  in tandem with the stressful  tension that the protagonist  creates when he prefers  to be  a  pebble in the stagnant pond.Salute has  a lot to say about mending broken promises. It is  a  coiling seething  angry  film  about  injustice and corruption set  to  a  normalized tone which doesn’t pick on  any character for  poor discharge  of duty.
  3. Dear Friend:  Betrayal is  a lot like  a terminal  illness. There is  no point in talking about it. The more you do , the  more bitterly ravaged  it leaves  you. Betrayal is  best left to itself. It is  , to some like me, a  crime worse than physical  violation.  Time heals  the damage to the body.What about the  heart?The  look that I saw  in the character  Jannat’s eyes  at the end of  Vineeth Kumar’s  Dear  Friend would stay with me forever. It said so much that words  cannot. Not that Dear Friend is  short of words. It cannot be. With five flat-mates  sharing  space, thoughts, dreams,peeves and, yes, a pet too, words  flow.And yet Dear Friend is a very quiet film.Quiet and  non-judgemental, even when  one  of the  friends  just leaves,quits,exits. Without  prior notice.The  friends, two of whom Jannat(Darshana Rajendran)and  Arjun(Arjun Lal)  are a couple, find their own way of dealing with the betrayal.    Writers (Sharfu, Suhas,Arjun Lal) and  director Vineeth  Kumar  refrain from probing into the raw wounds. It is a  remarkably dry-eyed  film. Where  there is  so much room for drama  and hysteria, Vineeth Kumar choses to internalize  the hurt and  wounded  pride .This is one of  the most restrained  projection of hurt and betrayal I have seen, and also one of the most dispassionate  There is a wonderful  lengthy sequence with the vanished  friend’s mother where the  four friends find out the  truth about the filth of the  fifth. The  mother doesn’t shed  a single tear.These are  emotions  buried  too deep for tears.
  4. Puzhu:  Mammootty in  the Malayalam Puzhu is  the most complex problematic father I have seen  in any  film since  Hrishikesh  Mukherjee’s Anupama.  Mammootty plays  Kuttan a blatant  casteist, who has disowned his sister(Parvathy Thiruvothu)  after she  married a Dalit actor.Mammootty’s frighteningly  prejudiced  patriarch  doesn’t hide his biases. He is  like a bull in a  china shop that makes  no effort to spare crunching over fragile content.Kuttan’s  autocratic arrogance  is amplified when he is the company of his young son Kichu(Vasudev Sajeesh).  That  the  70-year Mammootty passes  off as the 14-year  old boy’s father is a  measure of the actor’s charisma and credit. That  they don’t look comfortable  as  father and son serves  the  film’s purpose  just fine.Kichu is  petrified of his disciplinarian dad. The  boy is not allowed  any space to breathe beyond school, books and  parenting. He  is losing out on all the pleasures that make adolescence such a  rewarding adventure. The father has the  boy his neck squeezing the life and breath out of him.In the beautifully designed  though at times clumsily executed  film,debutant director  Ratheena  draws drama out  of the simplest of  situations, like the father making his son watch  the same  family  video every night where he is seen disciplining  the boy as a toddler.Puzhu shows us how tyrannical  parenting can destroy a  child’s life.And hats off to Mammootty for  slipping so effortlessly into such an evil  character.Kuttan  could have easily been  played  like a full-time villain. Mammootty embraces  all  of  Kuttan’s  negativity and  alchemizes it into a force of  inhumanly rigid  nature. He  is at once a despot and a  weakling. His son hates him for his  tyrannical behaviour. But Kuttan has his own logic, no matter how faulty and fractured,  for what he is doing.In his  preposterous  worldview and his failure to tell  discipline from despotism Mammootty makes the most despicable dad , barring Alencier Ley Lopez in Appan.
  5.   InAriyippu streaming  Mahesh  Narayanan  actually steps out of his home territory in Kerala  and takes  the protagonists  to NOIDA for  better prospects. As  migrant workers in a glove  factory   Kunchacko Boban and Divya Prabhu merge so effortlessly into the migrants’ world of  invisibility that if you are  not  familiar with these two actors’ work, you would think they are  actual migrants.The  only time they are called  out is when  someone during a scuffle mutters, “These bloody South Indian migrants.Hareesh and Reshmi would have remained entrapped  in  their  citadel of anonymity,  like Balraj Sahni and  Nirupa Roy in   Do Bigha Zameen , if something terrible didn’t happen. A doctored video surfaces, showing  Reshmi performing oral sex on a man not seen  in the video(anonymity/invisibility has many faces in Ariyippu). This  ugly incident  triggers off a  chain of  recalcitrant actions with far-reaching consequences to the married couple’s mutual trust fund.Mahesh Narayanan’s  has written a  fable with  irreversibly tragic consequences.  
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