The Malayalam movie Adventures of Omanakuttan, directed by debutant Rohith VS and starring Asif Ali and Bhavana, may have passed by without making much of a blip after its release on May 19. However, the movie abruptly became the talk of social media over the last two days.
It all started with a post from director Rohith on Facebook, requesting viewers to watch the movie soon as it is on the verge of being pulled from theaters within only few days of its release.
What followed was a strong wave of empathy and support from viewers, film-makers and artists alike. Popular names like Vineeth Sreenivasan, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Basil Joseph, Happy Wedding director Omar Lulu and Sunny Wayne have all put up videos, posts or photos extending their support and urging others to support what is said to be a unique experimental effort in Malayalam Cinema.
Asif Ali himself put out, first a post and then a live appeal on Facebook on Tuesday, requesting viewers to give the movie a try and not to give it a miss based on his past films.
We are not yet sure of how good or bad Adventures of Omanakuttam is, since the film has not released outside Kerala yet. However, any movie deserves a chance to receive a fair showing with audiences before its fate is sealed. If the movie turns out to be good, we can only hope that this online support campaign helps it to get the theatres and audiences it deserves.
But, given that current predicament is usually faced by movies made by completely unknown names or fresh debutants, an important question arises about this film starring no lesser stars than Asif Ali and Bhavana.
Why has a lead actor like Asif Ali, who has been a star in the industry for 8 years, not been able to attract viewers to the theatres without such a strong support campaign? Why his experience in the industry alone not helped him earn the trust of distributors or theater owners? The current situation of Adventures of Omanakuttan, if anything, should serve as an opportunity for the actor to introspect, and as a lesson in navigating the pitfalls of early stardom.
Asif Ali started his career in 2009, mostly as a part of multi-starrer movies in the early part of his career. He received a major breakthrough and showed great promise in his hilarious portrayal of Manu Raghav in 2011's Salt and Pepper.
However, he squandered that advantage with some poor script choices resulting in below average movies. In 2013, he found success as a solo hero in Honey Bee but failed to capitalise again. In 2016, he received rave reviews for his work in Anuraga Karikkin Vellam. But what followed again were a couple of disappointing movies including a tepid sequel to Honey Bee.
For someone who found a foothold in the industry on his own, Asif Ali would have done well to look for inspiration or from his contemporary, Nivin Pauly. Nivin arrived the industry one year after Asif Ali, and also struggled for the first few years.
But once he found success, he has never let it go. Nivin has timed his projects well, giving his audiences enough time to make sure that they look forward to his appearances on screen. With the select set of films he does, however, Nivin goes all out for their promotion, a key requirement to find success in movie industry these days.
Asif Ali, on the other hand, admitted in his Facebook Live that he has been even away from social media for a long while. This has served to deprive him of a good medium to promote his movies or connect with his fans.
In terms of his acting choices, too, Asif Ali has fallen short of other peers like Fahadh Faasil, Prithviraj or Dulquer Salmaan. Unlike these latter actors, Asif Ali has seldom made a great effort to make his characters look different from each other, or to portray a unique and challenging role on screen.
Asif Ali spoke about how the makers of Adventures of Omanakuttan did not have the resources to extensively promote the movie or distribute it as they wanted. What he seems to have failed to realise is that the biggest promotion any small-budget movie can get is the portfolio of past work its artists bring to the table. Leaving aside Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, what viewers had in front of them, in terms of Asif Aliâ€™s recent work, were lacklustre affairs like Rajamma@Yahoo, Ithu Thaanda Police, Kavi Uddheshichathu and Honey Bee 2.
If reports are to be believed, Adventures of Omanakuttan is touted to feature one of Asif Ali's finest performances till date. Unfortunately, until the support campaign kicked off on social media, there was no way for the audience to know or believe this.
Perhaps the experience with Adventures of Omanakuttan will finally give Asif Ali the much needed awakening to shape his star career more seriously hereafter, and focus on the kind of movies in future that ensure he could use his name to his advantage and bring viewers to theaters.
Note: The author is a contributor and the views expressed in this piece are personal.