Director Rahul Riji Nair daringly puts four senior women to lead his film and pulls off a funny entertainer.

Dakini review An endearing film with four elderly women as heroes
Flix Mollywood Friday, October 19, 2018 - 16:45

It's daring of Rahul Riji Nair. To have four senior women actors leading his film when Malayalam cinema has never really been, let’s say, accommodating of any woman – senior or junior – leading anything.

But director Rahul Riji Nair, fresh after a State Award for his first feature film Ottamuri Velicham, appears to have believed in a script he wrote with these adorable women leading the show. We know two of them from Sudani from Nigeria, the mothers who had grabbed many hearts with their portrayal of two simple village women with a lot of love – Savithri Sreedharan and Sarasa Balussery. The third is Sethulakshmy, who has again been noticed for her realistic dialogue deliveries. The fourth is Pauly Wilson, an actor recognised much belated, with a state award last year.

Rahul introduces the four of them as long time friends, meeting at the flat of one, to play cards and drink an occasional wine. Their clothes tell their different backgrounds. Pauly as Molly Kutty is in the traditional robes of Malayali Christian women – chattayum mundum. In the day, she is in men’s clothes, working in her workshop. Sarasa as the wife of a late army man wears churidhars, a habit she possibly picked up living in the ‘borders’ of India. Savithri as Rosemary wears dresses like Anglo Indian women do in Kerala, and takes care of her serial-loving husband. Sethulakshmy wears the conventional sari, a grandmother getting the everyday customary call from her son and grandson in the US.

The four characters together form a WhatsApp group called Dakini, after their young friend Kuttappai (Aju Varghese) tells them Dakini is the name of a "nice woman". Malayalis, however, know Dakini as the name of an evil character in Balarama comics. And this is the image that comes to the mind of our villain called Maayan (Chemban Vinod) when he tries to picture his enemy. Maayan is introduced in the very first scene, as the evil merciless man, who kills those who wrong him with a ‘vajrayudam’ (specially made knife). It is this man who wipes the blood of those he kills, on his white shirt, that these four old women try to defeat - because circumstances require them to.

In that way, the movie Dakini is much like a comic, where little tricks as sending a monkey (an obviously artificial one at that) to scare the villain, work. So you can’t sit back and judge it with a serious face. You will have to watch it like a cartoon, and cheer for the women. The director makes this easy, for he has built his women characters like that – very unreal no doubt, and unpractical too, but absolutely heroic in an adorable way.

Pauly is a contrast from the helpless mother-in-law she played in Rahul’s first film. As Molly, she is someone who has learnt to live alone, manage her own affairs, unafraid and uncaring of worldly deals. It is to this life that an old flame, Kuttan Pillai (played by Alancier), comes. Molly then reveals herself as a woman with a lot of love, but without changing her ways. She is still tough, still very much a mechanic, still someone who would take charge when things go wrong, and not run away. Pauly does this all so smoothly, a tiny curl of her lips suggesting she still likes Kuttan Pillai, an open laugh when she is with her friends and easy indifference otherwise.

Every one of the women has her own traits. It is good to see that Rahul hasn't made them a collective set of grandmas with the same qualities, as filmmakers often do, paying little attention to the aged on screen.

So Rosemary is mostly easygoing, wanting to dance, and dozing off when there is an important discussion. And this is not a one-time detail but followed consistently, making the character original. Savithri looks as endearing as she did in Sudani, but the character is a world away.

Sarasa plays a tougher role, the intelligent one in the group. She is the one who figures out a way to build fear in the powerful enemy. Sethulakshmy may look conventional but she is funny, and the first to help a friend in need.

Despite all this talent on board, the script does slip at several points, when it tries to force in unfitting and unfunny comedy into it. And when it uses jarring music in the background to introduce the villains.

The characterisation of villains changes from ruthless to funny when you watch them at home.

It is also heartwarming to find women do the chasing of villains to save a man, and the men happily accepting this change of roles, despite the digs at ‘old crazy women’. All four women continuously deny being old and get angry when they are called so.

Saiju Kurup too plays beautifully his role as a cowardly goon, while Aju remains Aju. Something inexplicable seems to make him look and behave the same in nearly every movie.

But with all its pitfalls, you can watch Dakini like reading a funny comic and laugh like a child.

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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