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Shamzu Zayba’s film tells the story of Ashokan, a short, dark man with a complex, who is hoping for a woman in his life.

Man wearing blue t shirt and lungi sits down next to two banana plants with an umbrella in the rain
Flix Movie Review Monday, August 31, 2020 - 19:20
Worth a watch

A wedding, the bedroom decorated for the first night, a song followed by another and then a dream from which a man wakes up. The first few minutes of Maniyarayile Ashokan brings memories of tiresome sequences from past movies, but luckily someone changes the gear and the movie moves on to newer, likeable territory. Not an entirely untested one.

Ashokan, played endearingly by Jacob Gregory, is your short, dark man with a complex, who is hoping for a woman in his life. He looks longingly at newly-weds in an it-could-have-been-me manner, and dreams all too often of weddings and twin children. The premise, at the onset, might remind you of Sreenivasan and his famous character Thalathil Dineshan of Vadakkunokki Yanthram.

But Ashokan is not a suspicious man. He is quite regular in his ways – he has cordial relations with his parents and friends, rides a scooter to his government job, and wants to get married.

Dulquer Salmaan, the producer of the film, turns narrator at the beginning to tell you that Ashokan’s village, full of green hills and paddy fields, is one that is made for love. The film, on cue, begins with another love story – one that every man in the village has for a woman called Unnimaya (Anu Sithara). That story ends too soon, but doesn’t exactly disappear. It shows up in the memories of those men, now old and recalling their broken hearts with humour.

From there it goes to Ashokan’s story with a song. Uff, you think, another song so soon, sounding all too cliché and cheesy. The music is catchy though, composer Sreehari K Nair getting Dulquer to sing the first ‘Unnimaya’ song and Sid Sreeram to sing the next ‘Olu’ song.

Luckily, director Shamzu Zayba seems to be a believer in not wasting time – at all. The movie doesn’t halt unnecessarily at long scenes or the tragedies of Ashokan’s life. When dejections come, Ashokan is rightly hurt but doesn’t make a scene. His friends – played by Krishna Sankar and Shine Tom Chacko – support as well as rebuke him, and come with their own stories. His parents are loving, the dad (Vijayaraghavan) telling Ashokan that if one woman rejects him, they will find a better one. The mother – played by the talented Sri Lakshmi – is sadly stereotyped, and apart from the house work and the casual remark about getting the son married, does little else.

As Ashokan’s story skips from one woman to another, he comes across Shyama, played by Anupama Parameswaran. Cue – more songs. While their relationship itself is cosy, Shyama utters a cringeworthy, misogynistic line, albeit in support of the short Ashokan: “I’d rather bow before you than look up to a taller guy”.

We know this isn’t your woke film that is going to ask uncomfortable questions. It’s a village story, about a regular man and his regular life, his friends and family, and his fantasies. But even as you accept the conventions of rural households and ways of life, lines like these are still irksome.

The typicality of Ashokan’s life, however, fades in the latter part of the film. It starts with some strange advice from a priest but goes on to affect the man all too much. Gregory easily adapts to this new character that emerges from the village guy with the government job.

As with the rest of the movie, director Shamzu doesn’t let this unusual part stick too much and the movie ends as sweetly as the description of the village it began with.

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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