I mentioned last Monday that I saw two Malayalam movies in the theater. This was the other one! The showtime gods were kind to me, I realized I could catch a matinee of Ezra, grab a lassi at the concession counter, and then move right into the show for Fukri.
I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be the best movie ever. For one thing, it only had one showtime! Whereas Mohanlal’s newest had 3. But none of those showtimes lined up with when I could easily go, so Fukri it was!
This was essentially just what I expected from the poster. Jayasurya being clever and wise-cracking, lots of sunshine and good people, a sweet little romance, some decent songs, a nice thing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Especially as a refresher after Ezra!
I really like Jayasurya, I have ever since I saw Punyalan Agabattis way way back when I was first getting into these movies. I like how he always seems more interested in what he is plotting and thinking than in how he is looking. A charming smile is only useful for what it can get him, not on it’s own. Even romance, he doesn’t enjoy the flirting and the poetry of it, he wants to get through it and get over it as fast as possible and move on to the next step in his life plan. It’s refreshing! A kind of cleansing lack of sweetness.
In this film it almost goes a little too far in that direction. Jayasurya spends so much time with his schemes and his maneuvers that I kind of forget he is supposed to be doing all of this for love for long stretches of the film. Also, frankly, his love interest is kind of bland. One of the things I really liked way back in Punyalan Agabattis was the way his wife would sort of call him on things, and also be his sounding board and part of all his schemes. Their settled married life was more romantic that way than this film with its stolen moments and love at first sight with a woman he barely exchanged 4 words with.
The real problem is that there are so many other great characters who Jayasurya spends so much more time with. Although I don’t know if that is a “problem” really, it’s great to have a world that is filled with interesting people and complex relationships. It’s just too bad that the romance isn’t one of them.
In general, the film felt like an imitation Priyadarshan, right down to the wisecracking friends/roommates at the center of it. I know it wasn’t really a Priyadarshan, I know that it was Siddique. Although Siddique directed Ramji Rao Speaking? Am I seeing that right? Which was then turned into Hera Pheri, which WAS a Priyadarshan. So maybe my whole world is upside down! Maybe what I always thought of as Priyadarshan films were actually Siddique films?
No matter who directed it, it was definitely a “lessor” version of other earlier films. I could only recognize a couple of things, not even really recognize, just this vague feeling of deja vu like I’ve felt these beats before and I know these character types. And the vague deja vu memory of something I’ve seen before is telling me that the thing I saw before was much much better than this. This isn’t bad, but that was better.
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Sloooooooooooow opening. Feels like this might be a combination of various ideas Siddique had sitting around and he just sort of threw them all in. A piece falls off a temple in a small village. The local blacksmith is brought in by the temple committee to look into it, and he calls his friend Jayasurya who dropped out of engineering school. Jayasurya decides that they have a chance to collect the metal from the temple roof which would have been turned to iradium over the decades and gets the blacksmith to volunteer to redo the temple. And then he has to redo the Mosque as well, just to be fair and keep peace in the village. And when it’s all over, they’ve taken apart the roof, found there is no iradium, and run out of money to put the temple back together. So Jayasurya and his friend both take off and try to find a different way to raise money.
I skipped a ton of complications on that part, but it doesn’t matter because none of matters. Alllllll of that was just to get Jayasurya and his friends to the point of being desperate for money. And them being desperate for money was just to get them to the point of starting new careers as enforcer/fixers. Except, not really. Jayasurya is too smart for that, so when they are hired, for instance, to beat up the boyfriend of a cheating wife, instead they confront him and extort more money from him NOT to beat him up, and get a promise that he will put on a fake cast so the husband will think they did their job. This is maybe my favorite part of the movie, I wish it had gone on and on with this and never bothered to switch to a different kind of plot.
But, unfortunately, Siddique ran out of ideas for this part and had to throw it away and start fresh with an entirely new kind of movie one third in. An okay but slightly less interesting movie. And a very very complicated movie which just barely holds together.
The beginning bit is fun, mostly for how light weight it is. Two college girls are caught skipping class to see a Salman movie. The principal wants to see a relative. So they try to hire Jayasurya’s team to be the relative, and Jayasurya falls in love at first sight. Only, coincidentally while he is at the school, their real cousins arrive to visit. There is a fight, and one of the girls panics (not our heroine, she is too boring, but her sister) and blurts out that it wasn’t a lie, Jayasurya is their cousin, the son of the black sheep of the family who ran off years earlier.
And then Jayasurya is mysteriously approached by a third woman? This bit was a little unclear, how she magically knew about it. It’s explained a little later, but that doesn’t explain why Jayasurya accepts it so easily right now. Anyway, the third woman says that she actually IS the child of the black sheep! She wants to reunite the family but she can’t do it herself. She is undercover in the house now pretending to be a servant’s relative who is staying with them and she wants Jayasurya to keep up the pretense of being the long lost grandson so he can soften the family towards her father. It’s smart in terms of making us sympathetic for Jayasurya’s cause, that he isn’t just doing this for money (and even then, it’s money to rebuild a temple), but because he was explicitly asked byt he person it affects most to try and help.
She also gives him a bit of a backstory. Her father’s family is royal and Muslim. Her mother’s family is Brahmin conservative Hindu. The couple fell in love and eloped. Her father tried to set up businesses to support them, her grandfather kept sabotaging him. Finally, he was driven to do business in alcohol (I think? I think what we are trying to get at here is that the son was driven from fancy nobel life to a harder grittier existence). The grandfather tried to end that, or the son thought he did, and it all ended in a physical fight with the son stabbing the grandfather and leaving the house, never to return. Both sides of the family have not forgiven the couple for the interreligious marriage. Jayasurya’s job is to infiltrate both houses and win them over, and then she can reveal herself as the real heir.
It’s kind of fun seeing Jayasurya sneak his way into both places. But after that it gets back in the “seen this before somewhere else but better” feeling. Especially the romance. He is spending all of this time with the fake-maid/real granddaughter and it feels like they have more in common and a bigger bond than he does with the random girl he fell in love with at first sight. Heck, he even has a bigger bond with the heroine’s cousin/sister! She’s the one who initially lied about him being the cousin, and she’s the one who is consistently quicker to support his stories. And the heroine is just there, bleh.
There is some impressive fancy footwork in how they manage to make the rest of the film play out with Jayasurya constantly having the permission of the people involved for what he is doing. The Hindu family accepts him first, and then his fake-grandmother on that side begs him to go back to the Muslim family and drives him there herself because she also wants peace now. And whenever he tries to leave the Muslim family household, they insist on him staying too. And all along the real granddaughter is there too, playing a Hindu maid in one place and a Muslim one in the other.
What gets really mysterious is when the blacksheep himself shows up. Lal, who I guess is an actor with a long time association with Siddique? I recognize him from lots and lots and lots of stuff. Salt n’ Pepper, I think, is my favorite. And Lal backs up Jayasurya’s story! Only, it turns out, just because he wants a way into the household himself, but not for love, for revenge. He is still furious with his father! And a communist, which in any other film industry would be a big deal, but in the Malayalam industry is just a sort of random backstory to explain why he has connections locally and where he stays and all.
This should be a bigger complication than it is, and it should have an actual effect on the narrative. But it really doesn’t. Sure, it adds a little stress to Jayasurya’s life, but his basic goal of reconciling the two families and wooing the bland pretty girl remains the same. Lal is just there for a few fun scenes, and then mostly forgotten for long stretches.
The final “twist” isn’t really a twist at all because it is the only thing that explains the whole set up. Obviously, the angry male cousin who was beating up Jayasurya in the first place and inspired the lie is the only one who could have told the real granddaughter about it. And we had little hints dropped along the way that she ran away from school and Lal things she eloped. Sure enough, she met her cousin in college, they fell in love, but knew they couldn’t be married until the family agreed. So she left college and started working in his family’s house where they could be close, and sometimes at her mother’s house for a change. And then Jayasurya looked like the answer to all their problems if he could break through the deadlock so they could reveal their relationship.
The problem is, once this news comes out, we know how it has to end. Obviously this couple will get together, Lal will forgive his family in time to come to his daughter’s wedding, and Jayasurya and his girl will end up together. The only question is how to make it happen. And that’s where Siddique kind of phoned it in. Blah blah, Lal shows up at the wedding and we think he is going to be angry but instead he blesses his daughter and new son-in-law. Jayasurya and his friends, now that the truth is out, leave for the airport. Only to be surprised by Lal showing up with the heroine, and their friends from the beginning appearing to say that they did find the metal in the temple after all, and all the money is fine.
Eh. It’s okay. But the film never really explores the more promising emotional avenues. The idea that Jayasurya is an orphan who has found a family, that the “real” granddaughter has become his sister, the grandfather and grandmother have adopted him, even Lal has found the son of his spirit if not his body. It’s there sort of, but the film never really goes for it and brings that to the fore. Instead of settles for a lame ending of the money being fixed and lovers united and the larger themes of family and religion and all of it kind of goes away.
But still, pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon!