Geetu Mohandas’s Moothon begins with a song by the sea. You don’t see the singer but you recognise the familiar voice of Nivin Pauly. And then you wait for a long time before you hear him again. It’s till then the story of Mulla (Sanjana Dipu), a child growing up in Lakshadweep, feeling lost and in search of an elder brother – moothon – who left the shore years ago.
And at the end of the brilliantly filmed Moothon, it is this child’s face and story that somehow sticks. The others seem like an extension of Mulla’s tale.
As the story moves from Lakshadweep to Mumbai, Nivin Pauly enters the scene wearing the long ‘jubbas’ that men in the city typically wear on screen. His eyes are kohl-lined and red. He smokes up all the time and moans at the world. There is a gang with him and they make money through dishonourable means. Nivin is so good as ‘bhai’, it’s hard to believe it’s the same actor who’s known for his softer, light-hearted roles.
But, there is a softer version in Moothon too - in a flashback, a memory he appears to have forgotten. But it's not one that you can forget as a viewer - the performances, including and especially the child’s, are that good. Roshan Mathew makes a fine entry in the second half of the film. Sobhita Dhulipala plays a noticeable Rosy. Sujith Shankar is expressive in his short performance. Dileesh Pothan, as always, scores.
Children are, however, the show-stealers. The lines exchanged among them are easy to sit back, watch and enjoy. “How will you go to Mumbai?” asks a boy to Mulla. “I will take a boat.”
“But how do you know it will go to Mumbai? If you lose your way and reach China, there are people who eat children there!” comes the naive response.
Not much can be revealed about bhai’s interesting past. Suffice to say that silence and smiles can make such a beautiful scene.
It’s good that the movie plays with subtitles. The language is a curious mix of Tamil and Malayalam spoken in Lakshadweep. Dileesh Pothan and others as folks of the island speak it admirably well. Rajeev Ravi’s camera looks down at the beautiful green-blue sea covering the shores and you, as a viewer, quickly make plans to visit the place soon. The sea, however, looks as scary as it is mesmerising. It has seen stories of lovers in the night, it’s seen sorrow and it’s seen death. In Moothon’s Mumbai, it leaves you alone.
When Bhai meets Mulla in Mumbai, it is dark. The child’s eyes, full of innocence and hope, is a contrast to Bhai’s, bloodshot and without emotion. It’s different in the flashback, all bright and loving. There’s music (Sneha Khanwalkar and Govind Vasantha) in the air, there’s love. The contrast between his past and present corresponds to the one between the island and the city.
The dialogues are not art-house style, but you can’t rely on them for all the information. You pick up the details and connect your own dots to make sense of earlier scenes. You participate in the process of storytelling.
While the film engages you so, it loses you briefly towards the second half. You know bhai’s got plans that he doesn’t elaborate on but the thread that connects you to the film is snaps at parts. The storyline that’s been built so beautifully suffers a few jolts. The making itself never does. Geetu, you wish, had made her first Malayalam feature a long time ago. So much to look forward to from her.
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.