Yaaaaaay,. the spoilers review! So we can all talk about it in detail, and how much we liked it, and how clever it was.
Whole Movie in Two Paragraphs:
Our hero Tovino Thomas is a shy sweet self-centered small town tailor who is a little bit spoiled by his father. He has conflict with the local cops, one of them is his abusive brother-in-law and the other is the father of his girlfriend. And then there is Guru Somasundaram, the loser of the village, barely making a living as the server at the local roadside food stand. On Christmas Eve, lightening strikes the village, hitting both Guru and Tovino. In the next few days, they both find themselves gaining superpowers. Tovino’s nephew explains to him about superheroes and helps him explore his powers. Guru experiments on his own. The both choose to use their powers on the same night, Tovino to mask himself and beat up the cops who have abused his family, and Guru to steal money to pay for the operation of his crush’s daughter. The police believe one man did both crimes and Tovino and Guru are both confused at the idea of another person like them in the village.
Tovino enlists the help of the local karate teacher with whom he has also started flirting a little. She convinces him that his only hope is to prove there is a second “Minnal Murali”. This gets more vital when Guru confronts his crush’s brother asking to marry her and, at the brother’s refusal, gets angry and kills him, leaving the words “Minnal Murali” on the wall. Tovino is sad at the death of the brother, and scared at being wrongly accused. He has hope of escape when the police get a video tape from a surveillance camera, but then Guru steals it. Tovino chases Guru, the whole village sees there are two of them, and the chase ends on a bus. Guru gets the tape, but the bus is damaged and starts heading towards a cliff. Tovino stops it and saves the people, but loses the tape. Both Tovino and Guru are suspected by the police, and have now realized who the other one is. Before they can confront each other, the police and townspeople show up to arrest Guru. Guru tells Tovino to get away, and then runs to hide in his house. Where he is surprised to find his crush and her daughter waiting for him. She has always loved him in return and now she is ready to be with him. At this moment as everything is going his way, the mob sets fire to his house. His love and her daughter die in front of him. Meanwhile, Tovino is learning that his father is actually his adoptive father. He is the son of a traveling actor who died when a fire started at the theater. His father saved the lives of dozens of people and then died himself. Tovino is inspired to start remembering and thinking about what it means to be a hero. So when Guru shows up at the village festival ready to kill everyone in revenge, Tovino is ready to stop him. Tovino and Guru fight, Tovino kills him, and decides to stay in the village forever, because every place deserves a hero.
There are so many themes in this movie! But I think the overriding theme is “choice”. Tovino and Guru have identical powers, and receive them identically. They are also both orphans. And both of them are disappointed in love (Tovino’s girlfriend dumps him for a richer man at the start of the film). Both of them could have focused purely on their own needs and used their powers for themselves. But they choose different ways.
Tovino begins with a small selfish action, he punches the local cops because they were mean to his adoptive father, and his cop brother-in-law hits his sister. And Guru also has a small selfish action, robbing the local bank in order to pay for the operation of his crush’s daughter. But I think the key is the ultimate goal of these actions. Guru wants to rob the money in order to pay for the operation, in order to get credit for paying for the operation. Tovino just wants to punch some cops. He doesn’t care if they ever know that it was him who did it, or if anything ever comes of it, he just wants to make it happen.
Guru’s desire for credit is unfulfilled, his crush’s brother paid for the operation already. This leads to bitterness towards the brother, resentment that his actions aren’t recognized, and so on. Meanwhile, Tovino happily moves on with his life, his goals accomplished.
Tovino isn’t perfect, he also makes miss-steps. He learns that his elderly assistant at the tailor shop, coincidentally Guru’s crush’s brother, has stolen money from him. Instead of being understanding and forgiving he is angry with him. But then his father talks to him, and he listens, and he regrets his actions and is ready to do the right thing. Guru never does that. He never acknowledges a mistake, he just keeps going.
Tovino makes wrong choices, and Guru makes right ones. When the mob and police come for him, he tells Tovino to save himself. His love for his crush is pure and right, and she returns it. But one right choice can’t be balanced against his wrong ones. Or to put it another way, it’s not about what you have done in the past, it is about what you are doing right now. Tovino was a bit of a silly loser when we first met him. He got drunk and yelled at his ex-girlfriend’s house. He was disrespectful to his father. He didn’t appreciate what he had and was focused on getting a Visa to go to America and start a new better life. But slowly over the course of the film he makes the right choice again and again. Once he learns the truth of his origins, it tells another story of choices. His father chose to die to save others. And his adoptive father chose to take in an orphaned boy and love him as his own. So Tovino must choose again and again to do the right thing.
I think this is why this film has to be set in a village. These are a small number of people who have to life together birth to death. You have to constantly forgive, adjust, do the right thing. The police are bad to Tovino and his family, and Tovino beats them up. But then the situation changes and they are working together. Tovino gets mad at his employee and then decides he is ready to forgive him. Tovino’s ex-girlfriend is marrying a richer local and he is angry with her, but he still goes to her wedding, because they have to live together. This is what Guru is incapable of doing. He is stuck in the past, stuck on his childhood crush. He can’t move on, see people in different ways, adjust to changing time if not changing place. When she dies, that is a terrible terrible tragedy. But such tragedies happen. And in a tiny place, you need to learn to live every day with the people who were involved in that tragedy one way or another. Tovino can do that, he can go to a wedding of his ex, he can adjust to life with his brother-in-law, he can even process and accept the reveal that he was adopted. But Guru can’t adjust. And, inevitably, he falls apart. He uses his powers to try to change the village, to destroy everything that angers him, instead of learning to accept it.
There’s so much else to talk about here, the way the American version of superheroes is held up as a template, the cute love story with the angry local girl, the nephew who explains everything to his dim uncle, but for me the most important thing is that theme of choice. We all have power, one way or another, the key is what we do with it in this small shared community in which we live.