Mumbai, 02 Aug 2020 21:32 IST
Geethu Mohandas transports you from a beautiful coastal town in Lakshadweep to dingy rooms and dirty bylanes in Mumbai in Moothon.
Moothon begins as a boy's search for his older brother but then turns into a gritty crime drama. The film begins on a picturesque beach on an island in the Lakshadweep archipelago off the coast of Kerala, where we are introduced to teenager Mulla (Sanjana Dipu) who lives with his uncle Musa.
Mulla, who prefers to wear baggy clothes, is an oddball among kids his age and always gets picked on by the bullies. Staring at the wide expanse of blue ocean around, the boy keeps thinking about his older brother who left them and went to Mumbai when he was very young.
Mulla decides to make the journey to Mumbai on his own to try and find his brother when his uncle refuses to help. But after arriving in the city of dreams, he finds out that it is no place for an innocent kid like him as he runs from one place to another only to be picked up by Bhai (Nivin Pauly), a child trafficker and small-time gangster.
There is also a lengthy flashback sequence featuring one of the most beautiful gay romances in Indian cinema in recent years. As Bhai performs the ritual of Kuthu Ratheeb, slashing himself with knives, his eyes meet those of Ameer (Roshan Mathew) which are transfixed on him. Slowly their romance blossoms.
Director Geethu Mohandas handles this extended flashback with utmost sincerity and shows the same respect to this homosexual love story as other directors would to a heterosexual tale. She is in no hurry and lets the couple savor their moments. Both Nivin Pauly and Roshan Mathew are terrific and let their eyes do the talking most of the time.
Nivin Pauly gives arguably the best performance of his career as he slips into both characters with ease. He smites you as the soft-spoken, pious lad Akbar and frightens you as the drug-addled child trafficker Bhai. Both characters are poles apart and he plays them with conviction.
Sanjana Dipu, who plays Mulla, delivers a nuanced performance. It's the kind of performance you will appreciate more on a second viewing of the film.
There are spirited performances from Shobhita Dhulipala, who plays the loudmouth sex worker Rosie, and Shashank Arora, who plays Bhai's helper Salim. Both have delivered memorable performances, though their characters are clichéd, unidimensional and lack depth and novelty. A selfish, street-smart sex worker and an unreliable psychotic sidekick who can betray our hero anytime feel out of place in an otherwise realistic film as we have seen such characters before in umpteen movies.
In Mumbai, Rajeev Ravi's camera trades those beautiful sweeping moves from Lakshadweep for tight, handheld close-ups. From the clean, wide open beach, you are transported to the dingy rooms and dirty bylanes of Kamathipura. The camera captures every ugly detail of this poverty-stricken part of Mumbai.
Moothon feels like two films stitched together — a tender love story on the backdrop of a beautiful coastal town and a gritty crime drama. And the difference in Geethu's treatment of these two stories can be jarring when the film shifts from the past to the present. One of the main reasons for this is that we never get to see the progression of Nivin Pauly's character from a soft-spoken guy to a hardened criminal. Neither are we given any justification for this 180º turn in his character nor are there any hints about how he ended up a criminal. Also, the narrative in the present has nothing new to offer in terms of plot or treatment.
Despite these shortcomings, Moothon is a brave attempt that keeps you hooked with some brilliant performances and a rare love story.
Moothon, which was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2019 and screened again at the 21st Mumbai Film Festival on 18 October 2019, is the closing film at the New York Indian Film Festival's virtual edition today. It is also available on Zee5.
Related topicsMAMI Mumbai Film Festival TIFF New York Indian Film Festival Zee5
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