Minnal Murali Review (SPOILERS): A Hero and Villain Are Made By Small Choices

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.

Minnal Murali review: All hail Minnal Murali, our home-grown superhero |  Entertainment News,The Indian Express

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.

6 thoughts on “Minnal Murali Review (SPOILERS): A Hero and Villain Are Made By Small Choices

  1. So the 13-year-old is the only child who saw the whole film, and he read your review and agrees with you and thus has nothing to add. I however am not sure how small the choices are – Namely to scare the brother of the woman you love is somewhat understandable, but killing him is a BIG choice. And not in a crime a passion, pre-planned with explosives to burn down the building, then watching the building burn and calling for help, pretending… THOSE CHOICES ARE NOT SMALL! And yet, even at the very end, the villain was a sympathetic villain.

    Also, why did Shibu / Guru have so many explosives around his house?

    I really enjoyed how no one was the perfect hero, and that it was a super hero movie without a perfect hero. I mean I love the Diwale movies and such where SRK swoops in and saves the day, everytime, without fail, always making the right choices, I do like that fantasy. But by not doing that, by making the heros imperfect, it made it seem more real. Okay lightning powers are still a fantasy, but in this context, with all else being real, it made the fantasy realistic.

    Okay question, a friend said people who speak Malayalam are Christian – she also pronounced Malayalam in a way I can’t repeat, and she’s NRI and has been to India like 4 times and she’s a doctor (my doctor) so I should trust her, but I trust DCIB more. Obviously these characters were Christian. But is everyone who speaks Malayalam Christian, because the insults the top cop threw at Tovino sure seemed caste related?

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    • According to legend/tradition, the Apostle Thomas made it all the way to Kerala and brought Christianity there shortly after Christ. It’s certainly true that the Malayalam Christian community is one of the oldest in the world. They have a specific way of worship, which is unique to them. So maybe it is that everyone who is that kind of Christian speaks Malayalam?

      So glad the 13 year old liked my review! I would agree that the choices become not-small. But it’s slow. Tovino eventually stops a chase/fight to save a bus full of people. And Guru kills a man out of spite. But that’s far into the film, at the start it is small choices again and again.

      Kerala is really interesting, it’s kind of like California! It’s a small area but it has multiple geographical features creating very different regions. There’s mountains, seaside, river areas, and farming flatlands, all in the same state. And each of the regions has its own history and religion and so on and so forth. Kerala has one of the oldest Christian communities, and also one of the oldest Muslim communities, and also one of the most unique Hindu communities. And, of course, a ton of Atheist Communists. So much different stuff in such a small area!

      On Sat, Jan 8, 2022 at 10:47 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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      • Here is a fun little exercise in thinking about density – Kerala is 15,005 mi² with 34.63 million people (in 2018). California is 163,696 mi² with 39.51 million people (in 2019). And yet in Minnal Mirali Jaisan was an outsider in their rural town. It is hard for me to fully grasp Indian ruralness, as their populations are my cities and if Jaisan was an outsider it implies people never move. That said, for many I’ll never be a local because I wasn’t born in my town, so I should understand this.

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  2. Nope.. Everybody who speaks Malayalam is not Christian. Roughly 60/20/20 is the Hindu Christian Muslim distribution in Kerala. In the movie, Tovino and family are Christian, so are his ex gf and family. Usha and family are hindu and so is Shibu.

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  3. Which part of the movie y’all like more? Because I loved the beginning – Tovino being cute and stupid, his Abibas shirts, the heartbreak, the lightning, and when he was learning to live with his powers. After the interval the movie started losing steam for me, and the climax, instead of keeping me on the edge of my seat, bore me. I found it too long and not exciting.
    But then I read a review and seems that people didn’t like the first half (apparently too long and boring) but loved the second and the climax.

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    • My absolute favorite part is where both of them are learning that they have powers, and then how to use their powers. And that is in the first part. But my second favorite part is where they are chasing each other, Netflix didn’t have an intermission that I remember, but I guess that would be in the second half.

      Shibu is my favorite character. I wouldn’t recognize the actor who played him on the street, but the facial expressions, the madness that wasn’t real madness, just a bit of offness, the fact that even at the end, I didn’t hate him… I really liked Tovino, and this is the first Tovino movie I’ve seen, even though I have admired pictures of him holding babies before, but the movie seemed like it belonged to Guru. The English dubbing drives me crazy because the deep voice drove away a lot of the character’s likability, unfortunately the seven year old can’t read English fast enough yet to get subtitles, so we used the dubbing.

      I liked the end scene, because the real hero was karate girl, saving them all from being blown up together, and no one even knew or saw it.

      My kids had a hard time focusing in the beginning before they started playing with their powers. Maybe they share similarities with film critics?

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