Ayalvaashi review: Soubin Shahir is wonderful in a film that loses track

Irshad Parari, making his debut as writer-director, has a cute idea of a story, but it gets stretched too far and snaps.
Still from Ayalvaashi
Still from Ayalvaashi
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Ayalvaashi begins well – animated drawings, the kind children would create, forming the visuals of the opening credits, and setting the background of the film. The opening is enjoyable too, with an engagement party in the house, young women dancing, and seniors in the family walking helter-skelter arranging everything. You make out the main characters from the opening animation – three male friends who grew up together, and their families. But just as you are about to warm up to the narrative, the film slips through many holes in the script and hardly ever finds itself back on its feet. Irshad Parari, making his debut as writer-director, has a cute idea of a story, but it gets stretched too far and snaps.  

Thajudheen (Soubin Shahir) is busy with the engagement function of his young sister-in-law and joining him in the celebration is Benny (Binu Pappu), his closest friend since childhood, who has come home from the Gulf. They have another friend, now single, who tags along with one or the other of them. Gokulan, playing this friend, is also the narrator of the film, beginning the tale with a curious thought: it wouldn’t give you peace to live among so many good-minded people.

Given the title – Ayalvaashi, a wordplay on neighbours who are stubborn – you expect this lovely friendship you saw, to have its crack sooner or later. Benny and Thaju live next door to each other and are so close that one pulls the other from bed at night, while the other invades his fridge during the day. Each has their individual problems -- Benny’s wife (Nikhila Vimal) has gone home following issues with his mother, while Thaju is really short of money, and lives in the house of his wife (Lijo Mol Jose) with her parents and brother (Naslen).  

The crack comes almost literally, on a scooter that Benny had planned to sell. The buyer (Vijayaraghavan breezing by), insults Benny in public. Benny, Gulf-returned, having no idea where the scratches on the scooter came from, points fingers at Thaju. After this is a series of confusions and one misunderstanding leading to another followed by blame games and fights, for all of which Thaju bears the brunt. Even through the messy script, you still feel for Thaju, the way Soubin lets the insults fall on his face, appearing to squirm underneath. It is a Soubin movie through and through, even as a number of characters play supporting parts.

Except for Soubin’s character, nobody else leaves an impression. They seem like passing faces. And it is not for lack of performance – Lijo Mol, Nikhila, and Naslen do what they can, but there isn’t much to do. There are too many actors with too little to do. Jagadish plays a nice mature role while Krishna gets one short scene.

Watch: Trailer of the film

What doesn’t work is also the comedy, intended in the narration, the one-line retorts, and the confusion. Some of these are sad clichés, such as complaints between in-laws and the angry English words that confuse Gokulan’s character. There are, however, a few fun sequences, especially those with Kottayam Nazeer, and a nicely-choreographed song (composed by Jakes Bejoy), that work.

It is not at all a bad idea to run a film through a single thread, in this case, the scratch on the scooter, if the script can keep it interesting. Ayalvaashi’s script doesn’t manage that, losing the viewer through its many convolutions, side tracks, and unmemorable events.

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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