Monday Malayalam: Shajahanum Pareekuttiyum, What if Movies are Just Conning Us?

This was a kind of interesting film.  Not a great film, maybe not even a good film?  But an interesting one.  Well, interesting in the last twenty minutes.  The set-up for that was a bit of a drag.  But most important (for me), this was a FREE film!  It suddenly popped up at my library, while I was in the middle of the move (DVDs finally unpacked as of this morning, but books still in boxes), and I had to watch library DVDs.  So it was perfect for me.

I don’t know how long the “no spoilers” section is going to be.  Because all I really want to talk about is the ending.  But we will see what I can do.

The acting was okay I guess?  I recognized most of the cast from other, better, movies.  So there was a bit of that hangover where I kept comparing their performances to the best things I had seen them do in other films and finding it wanting.  Amala Paul in Mili, Jayasurya in Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam, even Kunchacko Boban in How Old Are You? (not saying I liked him in that role, but I was very impressed with his performance).

Aju Varghese was delightful, that I can say.  I am beginning to realize that he is my favorite part of most movies I see him in.  And usually that kind of comic-cousin role is my least favorite part of a film.  Only he brings a kind of sincerity to his performance that undercuts the comedy.

Image result for aju varghese

(This guy.  He is always good)

And the directing was fine, and the script was fine, and all of these things would have been MINDBLOWING if it had been my first Malayalam film.  But since it isn’t, I could recognise that it was well done and uniquely Malayali in flavor, but not really anything super special.

Okay, the script was a little special.  It played with our expectations, giving us a filmi kind of a backstory, and then saying “did you really believe that?  didn’t that seem awfully filmi to be real?”

What felt very not-Malayali in flavor was the one super odd rape joke.  At least, maybe it was rape?  Or maybe it was just seeing a woman unclothed?  But either way the reaction was sobbing from the woman, a half-ashamed, half-happy expression from the man, and the brother forcing a marriage.  And all of this was way to thoughtless and regressive to feel like it belongs in the kind of movie I am used to from Kerala.

(Unlike Main Khiladi Tu Anari, where a joke in the same family seemed completely appropriate)

What made it especially odd was how strong the central female character turned out to be, and how weak and just kind of funny all the men were.  As a whole, this is a very feminist film.  Our heroine gets what she wants, with the help of another woman, not a man.  And the men’s desires and needs are treated as equal or less in importance (depending on the situation, not as a default) to a woman’s needs and desires.

Only to really talk about Amala’s character, I have to talk about the ending!  GAH!!!!  Okay, I will just leap right into SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amala is in an accident and loses her memory of the past two years.  Which causes issues, since she met her fiance (son of an old friend of her father’s) within the past two years.  Further complications come up when two different men appear and pretend to be the mysterious “P” mentioned in her diary as the man she loves.  Jayasurya is a low class tough, and Kunchacko is a wealthy millionaire.

Amala doesn’t remember either man, but agrees to spend time with them and hear their conflicting stories of romance with her.  Jayasurya spins a tale of a rich sheltered girl intrigued by a low class lout.  And Kunchacko spins a story of a somewhat wild college girl who meets and falls for a young millionaire type.

Amala is torn between the two, and the men don’t like each other, both saying that the other is lying.  Meanwhile, Aju Varghese (her fiance) is trying to figure this out with the help of his private eye.  Finally, Aju maybe-rapes a woman under the protection of the private eye whose brother is a big gangster, and is pressured into marrying her.

And Amala takes both men out, Jayasurya and Kunchacko, and tells them that she never lost her memory after all!!!!!  She was desperate to get out of the engagement, because she really was in love with a “P”, and she conspired with her best friend, the doctor who treated her after the car accident, to pretend that she had amnesia to play for time.  And then she had to suffer through spending all that time with Jayasurya and Kunchacko, but now that the engagement is finally done with, she can confront them and find out what their game is!

Jayasurya seems legitimately sad and asks again if she remembers him, and she says “no”.  And then he walks away, leaving her alone with Kunchacko, who immediately attacks her!  And asks if she knows where his car is, the car she was driving when she was in the accident.

Now, let’s hit pause here, because this is where most of the interesting stuff ends.  First, notice that all 3 of our main characters are playing tricks on each other and the audience based on how movies have brainwashed us!  It’s explicitly called out, Kunchacko identifies Jayasurya’s story to Amala as lifted straight from Thalapathi (which I knew already!  I totally recognized it!).  And later, when Kunchacko tries to get Jayasurya to remove himself from the love triangle, Jayasurya calls out the similarities to Innale (which I also totally recognized before they said it!)  and that he won’t be noble like Suresh Gopi and just disappear.  They are conmen, using the templates provided by films to convince the audience, and Amala, that their story is “true”.  Because it is the kind of story we are used to hearing.

(Both those movies are much much better than this film.  Innale isn’t quite the big epic thing that Thalapathi is, but it is awfully sweet)

But then we learn, Amala is doing the same thing!  No one gets amnesia like that!  It’s just convenient movie amnesia, which she made up with her friend’s help and everyone believed it, because we are so used to movie amnesia.  The whole film is this very clever layers upon layers of expectations versus reality.

Now, what I really wanted and kind of felt like would happen is that the fakeness would somehow have become real.  That Jayasurya, who always seemed to have more chemistry with Amala than Kunchacko, would have started out conning her but then really fall in love with her.  There was even a seen earlier, where Kunchacko said he just wanted her to get her memory back, and Jayasurya said he hoped it would never come back.  It could have been this cool thing where one fake lover turned real, and the other fake lover turned into a killer.  Which is what it looks like in this moment, Jayasurya walking away seeming sincerely sad, and Kunchacko trying to kill her.

There was even a little foreshadowing of this, with Aju Varghese telling a lie earlier about the first time he met Amala, her coming out of the shower after seeing a cockroach and him seeing her naked, and then that actually happening with the woman he married.  So maybe other lies were going to become true too.  But, no.

The way the film ended up going was a lot less interesting.  Kunchacko doesn’t really want to kill her, he’s not that bad of a guy.  And Jayasurya doesn’t really love her, he’s not that good.  Instead, it was all about the car she was driving.  She borrowed it from Kunchacko for a joyride, and then lost it.  Jayasurya found her after the crash and took her to the hospital, and stole the car.  Kunchacko wants her to get her memory back and tell him what happened to the car.  Jayasurya wants to make sure her memory isn’t coming back, so he can know he is safe with his stolen car.  Both men put on this show of a love story in order to stay close to her and get what they wanted.

And suddenly we leave this clever kind of meta-statement on love stories, and jump into a not very interesting heist/comedy movie.  Kunchacko follows Jayasurya, finds the car, they discover together that it is a car made of gold (Kunchacko was just smuggling it in for someone else, thought it was just a luxury sports car).  Decide to steal it together, go on the run from the gangster who was paying Kunchacko to smuggle it, and end up arrested by customs officials.  blah blah blah.

What makes this even more blah-blah-blah, is that while the whole rest of the film is a wink and a nod to how we accept the same old filmi tropes stolen from other movies, this actually is stolen from another movie!  A so-so American heist comedy, Tower Heist.  An example of the very thing the rest of the film is making fun of.

And worst of all, Amala’s character is kind of left behind.  I like the idea of what she says, that her real “P” is none of their business, because it is nothing to do with them.  I don’t need to see her real romance or anything like that.  But I wish she could have been part of the heist sequence, even as a mouthy hostage, instead of just going away.  And then she shows up again at the end for barely a minute just to bail them out and thank them for helping her trick her parents.  Which is okay I guess?  But last time we saw her, she was furious at them for wasting her time, which seems a little more realistic.  And it’s certainly odd to have her mind change that fast.

What I really really don’t like is that the film ends with Kunchacko and Jayasurya starting their competition up again, chasing after a female customs officer.  Because, it’s not about their competition!  It’s about Amala’s lie.  Rather than ending with them, why not end with Amala finding out she is about to be engaged to another loser and suddenly claiming to be dying or something.  Why write her out of her own story right at the end?

So, like I said, not a great film.  Or a good film.  But I am still glad I watched it for the moments in the middle when they flip the script and show how easily we accept the unrealistic if it is couched in filmi terms.

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7 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Shajahanum Pareekuttiyum, What if Movies are Just Conning Us?

    • Yeah, I’m not surprised. It just wasn’t very good. Some neat ideas, but over all just not very good.

      On Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 12:00 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I only know and like one song from this movie – Chithira Muthe and I was always thinking why Amala wears costumes which remind other movies, like black sari, I’m sure I have seen Deepika Padukone wearing in some movie.

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