BOTTOM LINE: A Heartfelt Rural Drama With a Novel Premise
Skin and swear: No instances of strong language and on-screen intimacy
|Platform: Netflix||Genre: Drama, Comedy|
What Is the Story About?
Every friend of Ashokan is either married or is on the verge of entering wedlock, but lady luck isn’t smiling at him yet. Ashokan has longed for a companion for the longest time now and most marriage proposals brought by their parents have been turned down for various reasons. His height and modest looks contribute to his insecurity. It takes the presence of Shyama for him to realise that he still has a chance to find the woman of his dreams. However, an unexpected roadblock turns his life upside down. Will Ashokan be the same person ever again?
The understated performances of the cast work well for the story. Jacob Gregory makes the viewer empathise for a one-of-a-kind part that could have easily become a caricature in the hands of a less capable actor. The film’s lifelines are Krishna Sankar and Shine Tom Chacko as the protagonist’s friends who always pull his leg – their presence isn’t reduced to being sidekicks and the director gives them their own identity.
Anupama Parameswaran has an extended special appearance and it‘s hard to look anywhere else when she’s around, playing a young damsel with her expressive eyes, displaying all her histrionic talents. Her character doesn’t have much meat, but she makes her presence count. Veteran actors Vijayaraghavan and Sreelakshmi are at their dependable best. There are a host of guest appearances – Dulquer Salmaan, Nazriya Nazim, Sunny Wayne to name a few, all of whom warrant your attention when they’re in the frames.
Maniyarayile Ashokan isn’t a film that sets out to bowl you over with an earth-shattering plot. It’s a peek into the life by the countryside where a crew seems to have accidentally shot a film – it’s this simplicity and casualness that filmmaker Shamzu Zayba aspires to bring into the proceedings and more or less succeeds too. Men bathing by the lake, staring at the moon in the nights, gossiping away near banana fields about each other’s love interests, it’s beautiful how nature is intertwined with their daily lives. However, if you need a one-liner to summarise the story, it’s about a modest-looking man’s journey towards his marriage.
‘If you have someone to press your feet, apply oil when your knee aches, the pain is worth it,’ the protagonist says, at an instance indicating his quest to marry someone soon. Maniyarayile Ashokan is very innocent and charming in the way it captures the anxieties of a man in his late 20s about marriage. Look at the scene where Ashokan is gaping at his cousin’s romantic advances with his newly wedded wife to understand what this writer is talking about. He also has a recurring dream of finding a good looking woman, fathering two twins before reality offers him a jolt. He’s genuinely surprised when a woman, Shyama, desires him for the way he is. The film has several lively characters in addition to Ashokan – including his father Achuthan and friends Shyju, Ratheesh,
The scenes by the village are visually alluring, but it’s not the kind of indulgence that breathes down your neck to say ‘look at how beautiful this is!’ Maniyarayile Ashokan, at places, hints that it’s a story attempting to counter superstition and go the ‘Phillauri’ way – the horoscope of the protagonist suggests that his partner would meet an unfortunate end to her life. An astrologer tells Ashokan to marry a tree before he invites another woman into his life, but the plot takes an unexpected turn, which forms the very essence of Maniyarayile Ashokan as a film.
Anyone in the place of directed Shamzu Zayba may have labelled his protagonist eccentric or a misfit, but the director makes an effort to get into the mind of Ashokan sans any prejudice. So innocent is Ashokan that, when he spots a reflection of the moon in the waters, he jumps into the waters to rescue the moon from drowning. Maniyarayile Ashokan is about a man’s unflinching love for nature, regardless of labels that the society gives him. It has an unusual, cheeky story with satirical undertones and the path is occasionally bumpy. The only weakling in the film is the way the relationship between Ashokan and Shyama is built, filled with a barrage of pointless clichés. Beyond that, this Malayalam film is replete with specific regional references. It makes for a reasonable watch though it doesn’t have the universal appeal that one often expects from Malayalam cinema.
Music and Other Departments?
Sreehari K Nair’s soothing music saunters through the film like a melodic balm and adds a lot of life to the film’s atmosphere. There’s great visual poetry within the minimalism in the work of Sajad Kakku, the cinematographer. The writing and his cinematography allow the viewer to soak into the film’s environs with glee. The film, despite its 110-minute running time, may have deserved more pruning.
Excellent contributions from the technical team
Takes time to grow on you
The Ashokan-Shyama romance
Did I Enjoy It?
Will You Recommend It?
Maniyarayile Ashokan Review by Binged Bureau
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