Meow Review: Soubin is wonderful in this pointless family drama

The characterisation of the children is the best part of the script, especially since they get to behave like children do.
Poster of Meow
Poster of Meow
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The cat’s there when Dasthakeer wakes up from a recurring nightmare, a car accident that had changed his life. The cat is crawling in and out of doors and windows of Dasthakeer’s Dubai house at all times of the day until he chases it away, like a madman. You can understand the reason for his excitement, it was when a cat crossed the road and he tried to avoid hitting it that his car toppled all those years ago. But you don’t understand the connection between the cat in his house and Dasthakeer, unless it is some super symbolic metaphor on his life. That’s the problem with the whole movie, Meow, telling the story of Dasthakeer and his family. It is just a random sequence of events in somebody’s life that you get to watch, but you don’t really get the point of it.

It is admittedly an interesting pair of actors in the lead – Soubin Shahir and Mamta Mohandas. Thankfully no one makes the kind of snide remark on their height or appearance as it used to happen in older films when couples failing societal norms (viz. taller woman and shorter man) were paired up. Only their character flaws are pointed out.

Dasthakeer as a young man was a student leader in Kerala and apparently turns to a contradictory path of partying late nights in Dubai. One night of drunken driving shatters the glamorous life and makes him a paranoid man who depends on his Ustad (a priest played by Salim Kumar) to decide every action. Years have gone by, and an older Dasthakeer is living a very practical life without the slightest hint of celebration. He is running a supermarket and living estranged from his wife Sulekha. He is the epitome of the ordinary dad, neither too strict nor too friendly, with three kids aged between 15 and 10.

Soubin is wonderful here, as the older man who is afraid of getting a heart attack every so often. The younger version is not so convincing, especially with the wig and the thick moustache added to give him the appearance of a rebel leader. The older man is more interesting, especially his paranoia and his anger issues.  

Unfortunately a lot of the opening scenes, obviously intended for comedy, simply fail to work. It just seems like props a stage director kept at places to pop out and act funny. Examples include a Pakistani salesman at Dasthakeer’s shop who puts on a clumsy act every half an hour, like the director just realised it’s been a little drab and we need some humour.

Watch: Trailer of Meow

Director Lal Jose and writer Iqbal Kuttipuram have produced wonderful works in the past, and cannot go too wrong where the making is concerned. That is to say you can sit through the film uncomplainingly, but the script almost yells out its pointlessness every now and then. One chapter closes and another begins, like a sitcom series where you watch a new unconnected episode every day. You hope it is all leading somewhere, but after a point, you know it won’t.

If you are wondering about the ‘big fight’, no, there really isn’t much there. Sulekha’s character is interestingly easygoing, appearing as the concerned mother on a phone screen to her children, taking a jibe at the husband but without much drama, like she’s enjoying her time off. Mamta Mohandas looks like a model in a hijab, popping in and out of the screen. Unlike Soubin’s younger version, Mamta’s is more convincing as she sits worried besides her father, talking about her wish to finish her education and work after marriage. The first meeting between Dasthakeer and Sulekha is sweet, and a song wraps up the remainder of their married life. But while giving birth to three children she appears to have forgotten her wish to work after marriage.

The children are the best part of the script. They talk, act and behave their age and it is such a relief after watching countless scripts that give irritatingly grownup dialogues to children. All three child actors fit into the picture so smoothly you’d think they didn’t know they were in a film. An important part is also played by Dubai actor Yasmina Alidodova, whose character is introduced very spookily, but you are not sure why.

Which brings back the question of the mysterious cat. Between scenes you are shown the cat jumping into the house or out of it. Just that, like the camera accidentally turned to catch the action and then brought it back to the people on the screen. The symbolism, if that’s the intention, may perhaps be too deep. Or else, it must have been an explanation for the title. If you have a name like Meow you have got to have a cat. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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