Angamaly Diaries, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, and now this. Malayalam cinema continues to enthrall in a different zone. All three films have something in common other than their casual brilliance – of them almost being mood pieces. Almost, because their plots weigh as heavy as the moods they reach, but more importantly they make you feel more than they make you think. I don’t know if this is the appropriate way to define them, but I identify these films because of their mood. There’s the ruckus of Angamaly in Angamaly Diaries. The uncertainty and constant aura of surprise in Thondimuthalum. Mayaanadhi tops them all with the “mood” being felt in every strand of the film. The slow transitions that feel like waves crashing from one side of the screen to the other, Rex Vijayan’s guitar riffs that… Well, you need to feel it.

This film left me soaking in whatever that it was trying to do. I am not able to put a what in place of this “whatever”. It speaks of love and women through people with two different worldviews that they have formed from their own personal experiences. The makers might have (rightfully) taken a side there. Trust is a whole other ocean they touch upon, but leave us alone to do the pondering. These are the places where we are meant to draw the lines they’ve built up. These questions together make up the mystic river the title refers to.

Among other tangible things, are the performances. No, I am not talking about the stellar Aishwarya Lekshmi and Tovino Thomas. Harish Uttaman and Ilavarasu are two actors who have worn the ideologies of their characters right up their sleeves. They look like actors who are in a film to satiate their liking, their passion to perform. Look at Harish as the young cop swallowing all the borderline-bullying from his senior. Menacing henchman, angry neighbour, angry this, angry that. This is all he’s gotten to be so far. But in here he gets to be a man in a world, rather than a character in a screenplay. There’s a pre-climax scene involving him and Ilavarasu, where they discuss women. The conversation that starts from jitters regarding an encounter killing, builds up to debating love and trust. To me, this scene is the crux of the story. This is where Mayaanadhi actually reveals itself. A conversation so very well written, for such actors who are performing at their fullest, there was almost nothing needed to stage in there.

Getting back to Ilavarasu, I read about him denying a director’s request to act by saying “theeni pathala” (not enough fodder for me). Well this is the film he has clearly got ample to feed on. Full power to Aashiq Abu for giving these artists such a space to sail through.

The credits rolled, and I sat right there, not letting the sounds of the rustling leaves get off my head. I wanted the unsettling feeling to last. The love and trust for this magical medium had just grown leaps and bounds, again.


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