Aavasavyuham: This darkly humorous, Kafkaesque film is entirely worth your time

This Kerala state award winner seamlessly intertwines the lives of people living in an ecologically fragile region with the surreal existence of a man sharing an uncanny relationship with nature.
Rahul Rajagopal as Joy in Aavasavyuham
Rahul Rajagopal as Joy in Aavasavyuham
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As director Krishand RK puts it, Aavasavyuham: The Arbit Documentation of an Amphibian Hunt, which recently won the 52nd Kerala State Film Award for Best Film, is a “fantastic ecological superhero action thriller mockumentary”. If you are confused by the anarchy of genre mashup, I am going to presume you haven’t watched the film yet. Instead, if you indeed did watch it, as it was travelling around festival circuits worldwide or more recently when it was released on the OTT platform SonyLIV, you probably know exactly what Krishand is talking about.

Set primarily against the backdrop of the picturesque and ecologically fragile region of Puthuvype in Kochi, Aavasavyuham follows the story of Joy (Rahul Rajagopal), an enigma of a man (a myth, a legend?), as told through the eyes of the local residents of the region in a mockumentary format. Joy is a paradox in many ways. A well-built man with broad shoulders and an imposing figure, he has the curiosity of a child, and is seemingly untouched by the world’s sins. He remains disconnected from the people around him, talking only when he is spoken to, asking questions on subjects that one would expect even a 10-year-old to be well-versed in. 

Even so, Joy seems to share an uncanny relationship with nature. Fireflies dance on his palm, while fishes and crabs respond to his calls and are drawn to him like moths to a flame. With the subtle aid of the slow-motion effect in all the right places, he travels beyond the realm of the ordinary, beginning to become magic in the eyes of those who care to take a deeper look, and gradually metamorphosing into a Kafkaesque anomaly.

This innate connection that Joy has with his ecological habitat is, at some level, a rebellion. Even as the film progresses and Joy continues to defy the man-made binaries between nature and humanity in increasingly baffling ways, Puthuvype — with its deep mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut groves — remains rooted in its geopolitical reality. Residents’ protests against the IOCL LPG plant proposed to be set up in this densely inhabited area are simultaneously underway. Concerns are raised on grounds of both environmental and safety considerations. There are mentions of how the region is still under Section 144 of the CrPC, which prohibits the gathering of four or more people, essentially clamping down on their rights to protest or reclaim their home. The film thus seamlessly intertwines the lived actualities of Puthuvype’s people, with the surreal existence of Joy.

The actors outperform each other at every turn, offering no false moment for the viewer to pick up on. Besides Rahul’s Joy, Nileen Sandra as the assertive Lissy who turns moon-eyed in her infatuation with a man of mystery, Sreenath Babu as the aggressive and vengeful Murali, and Zhins Shan as Susheelan Vava, the conman with a heart, deserve special mention.

Aavasavyuham is a wholly unique vision, not only as a social commentary neatly wrapped under the garb of dark humour, but also as an experimental film that challenges and mollifies mainstream sensibilities with its humour and charm. Do not miss this ‘fantastic ecological superhero action thriller mockumentary’.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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