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Review Malayalam

Aavasa Vyuham review: A surreal and fantastical ecological tale

Release Date: 2022

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Vidyasree Bindu

With its terse socio-political commentary, this Malayalam film straddles arthouse and mainstream cinema sensibilities.

Can art, eco-consciousness and the fine ingredients of popular entertainment be combined? Director Krishand's latest film Aavasa Vyuham (The Arbit Documentation Of An Amphibian Hunt) proves that they can.

Having premiered at the 26th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) and bagged the FIPRESCI and NETPAC Awards for Best Malayalam Film, the movie is a surreal and fantastical tale of human-nature relationships. 

Framed as a mockumentary, Aavasa Vyuham documents the socio-political and geopolitical reality of a place called Puthuvype, which is part of a beautiful isle that also has large mangrove forests. This particular locale is ingrained in the public consciousness of the people of Kerala due to the ongoing protests of its inhabitants against the installation of an Indian Oil Corporation LPG terminal.

The protagonist of the story, Joy (Rahul Rajagopal), is a man who has an uncanny bond with nature. Armies of frogs and schools of fish swim towards him when he calls to them in a peculiar way. Throughout the film, his identity is shrouded in mystery. As disconnected from the humans around him as he is connected to nature, Joy's interactions with people around him and the problems caused thereby form the basis of the film. Tailored as a hunt for a rare species of amphibian, the film also depicts the hunt for the enigmatic Joy himself. 

The movie features 'interviews' with the people who knew Joy. The conflict between man and nature is as intense as the inner conflicts the protagonist faces. The usual correlation between nature with women is beautifully subverted in this movie. As a foil to the saga of nymphs and mermaids, we have Joy, the mysterious man. Still, the rhetoric of nature and the grammar of fantasy is intact in this magical film. There is also scope for semantic analysis. The aptly named protagonist is simply an embodiment of the joy of oneness with nature. The Malayalam title of the movie has the connotation of a maze or labyrinth, symbolizing the inescapable and intricate ties between humankind and nature. Also, the nicknames of the characters are of animals who embody certain human characters.

Aavasa Vyuham is a must watch on the big screen in order to get the complete experience of the movie. Vishnu Prabhakar’s cinematography and Ajmal Hasbulla’s music elevate the viewing experience. The amazing performances by Nileen Sandra, Geethi Sangeetha and Zhinz Shan — who play Lissy, Madhusmitha and Susheelan Vava respectively — deserve kudos. 

Here, the medium and the message both have been revolutionized tremendously by the director. Once in a while, certain movies stride into the crowded list of films made so far, that proudly can fit into the category of both arthouse films as well as popular movies. Aavasa Vyuham is one such movie. It reminds one of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Vladimir Chebotaryov and Gennadi Kazansky’s Amphibian Man (1962) and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (2017), not in form but in essence. 


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