‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ review: Prithviraj and Biju Menon spar in an engaging film

Director Sachy manages to keep a predictable tit-for-tat tale somewhat interesting through his characters.
‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ review: Prithviraj and Biju Menon spar in an engaging film
‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’ review: Prithviraj and Biju Menon spar in an engaging film
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What’s both charming and a wee bit disappointing about Ayyappanum Koshiyum is perhaps that it is nearly everything you’d expected it to be. Two big heroes played by two big actors sparring. It is not a single sequence or a part of the story, it is all of it. Director Sachy’s job is to make it an interesting spar --the stories leading to it, the events that keep it going, and above all, the characters of the two main players coming out in bits and pieces through the nearly-three hour long script. This, he does well.

Prithviraj’s Koshy Kurien and Biju Menon’s Ayyappan Nair are introduced casually in their first scenes – one, a sleeping drunk man in the back of a car driven by an older man, the other a policeman among other policemen doing his routine checks on a road along the Attapadi forest reserve. Drama begins when Koshy Kurien announces he is an ex-army man and shouldn’t be pulled out of his car like this, just because he was carrying a few bottles of alcohol. Ayyappan has to slap him twice when he becomes unmanageable. As a case gets written at the police station, Koshy’s influential side is revealed. Ayyappan switches from ‘da’ to ‘sir’, takes him inside and explains. This is a case that will put Koshy in bars for 10 to 12 days, which means he would miss Christmas. Koshy pleads his case – a bedridden mother who may not be alive next Christmas, wife and two little girls and a dad at home. Ayyappan is helpless. Koshy says he can’t stand the pressure, he needs some alcohol. Ayyappan and a woman constable show mercy by giving him alcohol. But their mercy would bring them trouble.

There you have the backdrop. It starts off like a regular tit for tat tale, between a regular policeman and an influential rich brat. But then there is more depth to each of their characters than the first few scenes reveal. Both actors helpfully come with deep bass voices that give power to their one-line retorts. Each becomes unabashedly vulnerable when their weak points are bared. Ayyappan’s wife is a tribal activist called Kannamma (Gowri Nanda) and they have a baby together. Koshy’s dad is a menacing old man who’d once pulled a lot of political strings. Ranjith plays the role with ease, and come to think of it, it’s another actor famous for his baritone. Sachy chooses his cast by their voice, it’d seem.

A note on the women: Kannamma is written as a very strong character and this comes across in every scene she appears – be it the purposeful stride, the face that refuses to emote no matter what the crisis is, and the words thrown like spit on people’s faces. In an appreciable scene, Koshy coming to dare Ayyappan at his home is given a mouthful by the fiery Kannamma, shutting him up. “You got it from her?” Ayyappan asks and Koshy says, “yes, a little”. Appreciable because it is rare for Malayalam cinema to let a woman have the last word and a man of the hero status to admit it shut him up.

But then Kannamma’s fieriness, coming out mostly as practical lines spoken without emotion on the face of trouble, appears forced. Here is a strong character, the script seems to shout at you to take notice. And in contrast is the character of Koshy’s wife, played by Anna Reshma Rajan, who barely has a voice in the house. Here, it appears Sachy was confused if she should be entirely meek or be silly as well. When she visits Koshy in jail for Christmas and offers dishes that he passes to other inmates, all she has to say is, “will we get the vessels back?”

What comes off in really bad taste is however a slap that Koshy gives the wife, ironically for being so docile. But then Koshy has not been written as the best of characters, you can imagine him as a slapper and the script doesn’t try to glorify the totally unnecessary bit of abuse.

Ayyappan’s is the more interesting character of the two, for there is an unexpected bit of past (Jakes Bejoy’s music adds a mystical element to the narration) and a new side to the character of the dutiful policeman you saw earlier. Biju Menon expectedly pulls it off well. And Prithvi, even while retaining a little of himself in the character, makes Koshy a convincingly egoistic man you probably want to punch yourself.

Smaller characters played by actors who last through the script, and not left on side roads, are carefully written. Kumaran, the driver, you can’t help notice for being loyal to the core and also never shying away from saying what he thinks is wrong to the master’s face. The young woman constable who emotes enough to make up for the lack of emotion elsewhere in the script. Sabumon’s roguish Kuttimani, Anil P Nedumangad’s much-troubled police officer role, Anu Mohan’s young police man with full of spirit are all neatly written.

The movie keeps you engaged for nearly all the three hours with no dramatic twists or turns or characters turning a new leaf overnight.

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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