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Review Malayalam

Malayankunju review: Fahadh Faasil impresses in this survival drama

Release Date: 22 Jul 2022 / Rated: U / 01hr 54min

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Sonal Pandya

The Malayalam film features the actor as an abrasive man who aims to redeem himself after fighting for his life in a natural disaster.

Malayankunju (2022), written by Mahesh Narayanan and directed by Sajimon Prabhakar, is one half a character study about an unlikeable man and another a survivalist drama about the will to live.

Fahadh Faasil plays the abrasive Anil Kumar, fondly known as Annikuttan, who would like to exist on his own, but is forced to interact with others. He resides alongside his mother (Jaya S Kurup) on a rubber farm and works as an electronics repair man, requiring absolute quiet for his work.

When his neighbours return home with a newborn, Annikuttan loses his cool and snaps back at them repeatedly. Once he even engages in a brawl with them, initiating it with a casteist slur towards them. If it was for his protective uncle (Indrans), Annikuttan would have find himself behind bars.

The Malayalam feature, with a running time of 114 minutes, delves more time in layering this complicated character than present the film as a survivalist thriller which the trailer indicated. While establishing the environs of the tale, Malayankunju unveils the elements that have led to being Annikuttan so guarded.

A flashback reveals happier times for the family, when his father (Jaffar Idukki) and mother were preparing for his younger sister Sandhya’s wedding (Rajisha Vijayan). Annikuttan is unaware that Sandhya’s heart lies elsewhere and she elopes with to be with another man, who she later marries.

This incident weighs heavy in Annikuttan’s life. It leads to the death of his beloved father and an estrangement with his sister, for she has wed someone from a lower caste. These all factors become important later on when Annikuttan is injured and trapped underneath his home in a sudden landslide during the heavy monsoons.

Fahadh Faasil is terrific in this latter portion, which is both physical and emotional, conveying Annikuttan’s panic and inner instinct to make it out alive at any cost. The baby Ponni cries, which initially were an annoyance, become a beacon of hope for him, both as a human interaction and as a way out.

The actor is also effective in the first half as hot-tempered, chauvinistic Annikuttan, who nurses a grudge for far too long. He incorporates little tics into his performance like hiccups that show how affected he gets when bothered by those around him.

Mahesh Narayanan, who is also the cinematographer, frames the landslide sequence with terror and confusion. He and director Sajimon include an important interaction between Annikuttan and his late father, which proves to be the turning point for him. There is a key moment where he tells his son, “When we are all dead, we are all equal”, referring to the boundaries of religion and caste that men stick to.

Annikuttan is given a redemption arc and Fahadh Faasil is effective in showing how much the landslide incident and connecting with the baby has affected him. The rest of the cast with Jaffar, Indrans and Rajisha all have significant moments with Fahadh’s character that boost his journey.

Malanyankunju also features composer AR Rahman’s return to Malayalam cinema after three decades. While the songs are melodic, the background score is bit too present throughout. Especially in the portions of the landslide, using ambient noises would have been more practical.

Nevertheless, the Malayalam film is a compelling watch, simply because of Fahadh Faasil’s performance. While it doesn’t excuse Annikuttan’s past actions, the film shows how everyone has the capacity to grow and change. This is a promising debut by Sajimon.

Malayankunju released in theatres on 22 July and is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


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