Malayankunju starring Fahadh Faasil explores the depths of an individual trauma, sets itself apart with its honest portrayal, brilliant performance, memorable frames and stunning music.
I say less, and not more because Malayankunju is dead set on alienating the audiences from its lead character. It is not empathy that they seek, neither understanding. They simply observe him and his surroundings. In some ways, Anil is also a contrary man. One moment, he cannot stand the people belonging to certain people castes. Other times, I empathize with them. Case in point is his work from him for an employee’s daughter. He tries to repair her laptop from her and get it back to working condition.
Instead of using the right (also expensive) parts, he uses nuts and bolts to put the laptop together. When the young college students tries to cajole him and points out how embarrassing it would be for her to take the laptop to college, he does act tough. However, he ends up giving in, and helps her out of it. This is when an inking of doubt springs in the audience’s mind. What makes Anil tick? Why does he seem highly strung out, as if he is just one incident away from breaking down? The questions are addressed and it is interesting how his life’s biggest trauma takes root within him in an unexpected manner.
It surfaces during fights, during conflicts with his neighbor who has returned with his wife and a new born daughter. His frustration with him with the cries of the new born baby speaks to us at a fundamental level. It is a heart wrenching cry that disturbs not only the silence that pervades the night, but also disturbs the flimsy semblance of control that Anil seems to hold on to his life from him. He does n’t revel in the control that he has over his daily routine, it is more of his retreating into himself. He uses it as a shield against anything that he may otherwise find unexpected.
In a vulnerable moment, this tough man ends up in tears. In opposition to his usual brusque manner in the company of his mother and friends, this moment of vulnerability occurs while he is on his way home. He stops his bike momentarily and lets himself feel the grief that he had kept locked within him for years. All of this occurs by the daylight, out in the open. In contrast, the best moments of the film occur in the dark. Malayankunju‘s exploration of the depths of trauma in the darkness of the crevices following a landslide highlights the desperation that humans experience.
Anil is trapped in the depths of the land mass after a landslide and momentarily he gives up on his life. He has an otherworldly experience — his father’s appearance of him — that gives him the strength despite his despair of him. The very cries that haunted him earlier, and disturbed him to no end, is what appears as his saving grace from him. He struggles against nature to not only save himself but also a baby who is not older than a month. The cries echo around him and help him navigate. The sights that he sees at this time only add more trauma to an otherwise weighed down heart and mind.
Yet, I have persevered. It is not about staying alive, but about ensuring the safety of a baby. This is not only placed as his saving grace but also sets him on a path of healing and redemption. The past struggles and conflicts that he had had with the baby’s parent disappears into nothing. caste? Class? What does all of that matter in the face of death? Malayankunju arrives at the conclusion that it doesn’t.
It is not only the performance and writing that excels in the film, the cinematography adds life to scenes that might otherwise have been insipid. Especially the scenes of Anil being trapped in the landslide, and his struggles to make his way out is captured in a way that forces audiences to the edge of their seats. Beyond the matter of if Anil will survive, it is the claustrophobia that he sets in. In the darkness of the theaters, even I gasped for air at certain scenes because of how realistic the frames in the film were.
Yet another time, the Malayalam film industry has given its audiences a film that is beautiful as a whole.