Mohanlal, as the stiff Ulahannan, the panchayat secretary, is a delight.

Review Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol starts off awesome but ends up preachyFacebook/ Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol
news Mollywood Friday, January 20, 2017 - 19:11

Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol, directed by Jibu Jacob, started off being a refreshingly original film on midlife crisis. Halfway through though, the film took a turn that made me uncomfortable with the primary sentiment that it was espousing. 

But the good things first: Mohanlal, as the stiff Ulahannan, the panchayat secretary, is a delight. He is bored of life – his wife, his home, his workplace. He cribs about it to his drinking partners (Kalabhavan Shajon, Anoop Menon, Alencier Ley Lopez) every night – three other middle-aged men who're equally tired of the monotony of their days. But the film isn't just about the men, it's about the women too, who have to put up with the indifference that their spouse shows towards them. 

So we don't stop with Ulahannan's rants, we also get to hear what Annie's (Meena) life is like, with only weepy TV serials for company. All she does is cook and clean for her husband and two children, Jini (Aima) and Jerry (Sanoop).

When she exclaims in a moment of frustration to Girija (Bindu Panicker), her neighbour, that her husband hardly even looks at her, Girija says sagely that most women are in the same situation, with the men in their lives oblivious to their physical needs. This isn't a one-sided midlife crisis we're looking at, it's just as much about the wives as it is about the husbands.  

To spice things up, Ulahannan considers having a fling with Julie (Neha Saxena), a glamorous woman who wants to set up a beauty parlour in the area. But through a series of comic events, he falls out of love with her and in love with someone else. Revealing the identity of this "other" woman would be a spoiler, so I will stop with this. Mohanlal's flirtatious expressions and his mounting tension through these sequences are a riot. Kudos to the director for not giving in to the temptation of including an item number with Julie and getting Annie dance to Bijibal's tunes instead!

Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol adopts a fresh perspective towards love, lust, marriage and even extramarital affairs. I loved the amused openness with which Annie confronts Ulahannan about his fling, the observations made about the double standards that husbands have for their own morality versus their wives’, and the idea that sex and romance are necessary in a marriage, however old the relationship might be. 

Asha Sharath makes a cameo appearance as Ulahannan's college girlfriend. Though you can't help but think of Drishyam when the two of them share screen space, their restrained yet mature friendship shines through. 

These are not territories that South Indian cinema explores too often, so I was glad to see a film that handles all of these with sensitivity. 

The latter half, however, left me bewildered. From adopting a largely amoral point of view towards matters of the heart, the film suddenly takes a strict moral attitude towards young love and veers towards sermonising. 

That young people should focus on their studies and get into love and its complications later is an age-old morality tale, which is of little use, practically speaking. Why must parents behave as if the apocalypse is upon them when a teenager falls in love? It's also a tale that's been done to the death, so why fall back on it when the narrative was chugging along so nicely on an offbeat path? Even though we're given some justifications for this, the film ends on a preachy note.

Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol could have been a much better film if it had stuck to the 21st century attitude it displayed till intermission. Post that, I was left wondering if the coffee I was sipping had taken me back to the 1990s. 

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