Mammootty in Bramayugam
Mammootty in Bramayugam

Bramayugam review: Mammootty’s monochrome horror thriller explores how power corrupts

The heart of this monochrome horror thriller is Mammootty. Kodumon Potty is safe in the hands of the veteran superstar who keeps the mystery alive with his calculated wickedness.
Bramayugam (Malayalam)(3 / 5)

Bhaskara Patelar, the dominant caste feudal landlord in Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s 1994 Malayalam feature Vidheyan is one of Mammootty’s most remarkable on-screen outings. If someone was to imagine an apparition of Patelar in the pre-independent, 17th century Malabar, they would perhaps encounter the clairvoyant Kodumon Potty of Bramayugam

The 17th century was a time when European traders flocked to the coastal state of Kerala in search of exotic spices and ivory. Director Rahul Sadasivan premises Bramayugam in this era, a time when black magic and folklore held ground. The story begins with Thevan (Arjun Asokan) – a lowered caste man on the run from the horrors of a civil war. Shot entirely in black and white, the film takes us to Kodumon Potty’s (Mammootty) dilapidated mana (Malayalam word for ancestral Brahmin households), where Potty benevolently allows a weary Thevan food, shelter, and entry through the front door, which in other manas is strictly reserved for Brahmins. But this bait of kindness soon makes way for a sinister mind game, to exit which, Thevan must survive the omniscient sire of the house, Kodumon Potty.

In a particular scene, Potty explains that bramayugam is a more corrupted version of kaliyugam, the last of the four yugas according to Hinduism, a period of ultimate moral and social rot that spans many millenniums. The film plays with this idea to interpret horror not just as a consequence of supernatural interventions, but also as a state of absolute political helplessness under an autocratic, casteist regime of power. Reminiscent of The Sunken Place in the acclaimed Get Out (2017) by American director Jordan Peele, Kodumon Potty’s mana is the personal hell of the politically powerless, where they have no identity, no justice, and no control of who they are or what they are becoming. 

But power corrupts, and if one does not walk the tight-rope of its temptations with caution, they may end up becoming who they set out to eliminate. This is where Kodumon Potty’s mana becomes a metaphorical loop of never-ending human greed where even the most idealistic character’s intentions look questionable. 

The heart of this monochrome horror thriller is, of course, Mammootty. The all-seeing, unpredictable Kodumon Potty is safe in the hands of the veteran superstar who keeps the mystery alive with his calculated wickedness. Even as Potty makes your stomach churn in disgust, Mammootty makes you want to clap for his versatility as a performer.

Arjun Asokan and Sidharth Bharathan perhaps have more screen time than Mammootty, and make good use of it, though some scenes make you think that the characters could have benefitted from the experienced craft of more seasoned actors. Amalda Liz makes an impact when she appears on screen, but there is little we are told about her to have any opinion, except that while male demons get to be all shades of grey, their female counterparts only have to be seductive. 

In his previous film Bhoothakaalam, Rahul Sadasivan used the psychological landscape of his protagonists to accentuate horror. That idea surfaces in Bramayugam too, and cinematographer Shehnad Jalal ensures that the horrors of isolation, surveillance, and mental manipulations are conveyed by exploring the physical space of the mana beyond done-to-death techniques like jump scares. The black and white format adds to the rabbit-hole-like atmosphere of the setting though it does not specifically influence how most scenes are composed. Christo Xavier’s music works in most places.

What is slightly underwhelming though, is how all of this pans out towards the end of the film. Labouring too much to make a political statement takes away from the charm of storytelling, especially when the narrative has enough elements to make that undercurrent felt. TD Ramakrishnan’s dialogues add weight to the narrative but also appear forced in some scenes.

Vidheyan’s Thommy (Gopakumar) lived in a post-independence political scenario when tyrants like Bhaskara Patelar could be kept in check. Thevan and his aide are up against the ocular Kodumon Potty, a tyrant who goes far back in time, and whose empire of power only gets more stifling for those living under his rule. Bramayugam’s tagline says ‘The age of madness’, and if one looks closely enough, its horrors are perhaps more contemporary than they seem.

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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