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Anju Sundarikal Malayalam Movie Review: Dulquar Salman in full throttle, Fahadh Faasil disappoints

Anju Sundarikal, as the title suggests 'Five Beautiful Women,' is a poignant anthology of five short films that celebrate five female protagonists and their tumultous lives. These five films play on different themes and emotions, and on the whole, it is an interesting anthology.

Anju Sundarikal - Sethulakshmi
The first film, Sethulakshmi, is a heart-wrenching portrayal of sexual abuse of a small girl whose hobby is to collect newspaper clippings of newly wed couples from newspapers and she embarks on getting a similar photograph taken of herself with her best buddy from school. What appears as an innocent wish is the honeytrap that leads the little girl to understand the meaning of fear. 

Each scene in Sethulakshmi  seemed to tear into my heart, particularly in a scene where the photographer's hands and glance linger a tad too obscenely on the innocent, unsuspecting girl whose eyes are filled with fear. There is another scene where she is so frightened that she curls up at the feet of her parents - these nuances where words remain unspoken in a frightened little girl's mind and her feelings spill over into trembling actions. These symbolic emotional vignettes are striking and leave you feeling as naked as the girl was forced to be. It's a true masterpiece short film. You will have tears in your eyes despite the fact that the nuances are powerfully layered with non-verbal meaning.

Kudos to the Cinematographer-turned-Director Shyju Khalid who makes his debut as a director with Sethulakshmi. 

Anju Sundarikal - Esha
Esha, starring Isha Sharvani and Nivin Pauly, portrays two good-looking young people who meet on New Year's day in a beautiful home. The first scene itself is a hint: of a girl whose feet look beautiful as she pirouettes and practices her graceful dancing and acrobatic skills. But we may not realize that this subtle shot has a deeper meaning till we watch the entire film. Nivin Pauly impresses more than one would expect and matches Isha Sharvani in confidence, body language and overall they bring on screen a sizzling chemistry.

Sameer Thahir directs this light, romantic film. However, the film is like an icing on the cake and the cake simply does not fit in with the other films in this anthology.

Anju Sundarikal - Gowri

In the backdrop of a hill station surrounded by a vast expanse of forest area, a married couple live (starring Kavya Madhavan and Biju Menon). Their lives seem to have a set routine that they are not keen to break. A scene that I particularly liked was where Gowri is explaining to her dance students that the essence of the Nataraja pose is that in creation, there also lies the act of destruction. This dialogue captures the overall theme of the movie as it progresses forward. 

On the eve of their wedding anniversary, a visit by their friends (starring Rimi Tomi and Tini Tom) somehow changes the plateau-like stance of their marital relationship. A tragedy strikes and leaves Gowri emotionally shattered. 

Somehow, I was most disappointed by Gowri. I could not connect to Gowri, Jo or their complicated relationship that hinges on melodramatic, gloomy sense of self-centredness. The characterization baffles me as much as the story itself.   

This rare couple combination of two fine actors with a very versatile body of work raised my expectations. Doubling my expectations was the fact that Aashiq Abu is the director. But after watching Gowri, it was a most insipid experience, like drinking soda without fizz. 

Anju Sundarikal - Kullantey Bharya

Kullantey Bharya, directed by Amal Neerad,is the best story that I liked in this anthology.This short film is about a dwarf, his intense love relationship with his tall and lovely looking wife. Their love story is set against the backdrop of a hostile society, with its hawk-like stance. Does the short film taunt at the hypocrisy of the middle class Malayalis, particularly, the women? 

It shows how women are jealous, cruel and bitchy because of something missing in their own lives that they look at a happy woman with suspicion of the worst kind, anger and hatred while men look at her with longing and lust. It drives home a question - is the 'new generation' Malayali a supremely judgmental animal who no longer embraces the once-intellectual approach of sharing the happiness or the beauty of others' lives into his/her own life? 

Are we, so-called 'educated' Malayalis, losing our sense of humanity? That is crux of this story that taunts the emergence of the moral police in 'God's own country.'

I loved the presentation of Kullantey Bharya - the emotional quotient that is reflective in its characterization, the pace, the plot, the falling rain, the body movements of all those who acted in this short film. Playing the role of a professional photographer who is stuck in the wheelchair for some months, Dulquar Salman impresses yet again and brings us a most moving performance even though the character is limited in the range of physical movements. His voice-over effect is excellent and packs in the right melange of emotions and balances well with logical observations that emerge from a young, curious mind. This is the best short film in Anchu Sundarikal and a must-watch.

Anju Sundarikal - Aami

Directed by Anwar Rasheed, Aami is about a man (starring Fahadh Faasil) who is constantly driving and on the move and on the roads, past midnight hours, seeking and sealing deals that are important to him. The way he does it is as unconventional as the person that he is. Nothing is good or bad in his way of getting things done. He wants it done, period. That his wife's innocence fascinates and grates on his nerves is what makes this an interesting story. But the pace of the plot loses steam way too often as too many characters are cramped into the short length of this movie including a cheesy fling with an old flame.  

What I liked in particular was the way his wife would call him every few minutes with a Malayalam riddle and ask him to solve it. One would naturally wonder why she keeps doing this and towards the end, it is clear - if she didn't, he'd probably have fallen asleep and had an accident - small or fatal. That she is innocent is one aspect of her personality. That she is protecting her husband by staying awake and entertaining him with riddle solving is a deeper and more poignant facet of a woman's personality. 

Portraying emotions such as anger, temptation to have a fling all over again, trying hard to be a dutiful husband - these are the conflicts that Fahadh Faasil tries to portray but, however, disappoints.

Yes, 5 Sundarikal is a mixed bag of emotional vignettes. I can tell you one thing for sure. Dulquar Salman takes the cake and eats it too. He's brilliant and effortlessly so.

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all Malayalam movie goers who enjoy good cinema. REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people who enjoy and support the growth of the Malayalam film industry. ♥♥


Anonymous said…
I for one thought that Fahad stole the show. He brought out his conflict very well..
Mister Vinster said…
Hey there Swapna,
Loved your review, although I feel that it's a tad too late to react to it. But I'm gonna go ahead anyway. I just saw this movie for the first time yesterday, and IMHO, Fahadh did a fantastic job. He masterfully portrays the internal battle between the two extremes of his morality. I especially loved how the grittiness of urban reality was impeccably balanced out by the delicacy of his wife, thus showing both sides of border. Very few actors can effortlessly portray the subtleties of the lead character, and I'm happy to say that Fahadh nailed it.

But besides that, I agree with everything you've said. Which is saying a great deal, because I'm not a people

Vidya said…
Just watched the movie and googled to land on your blog. Beautiful review. As you so rightly point out, the non-verbal language was the brilliance of 'Sethulakshmi'. I crumbled as I watched that piece, and I couldn't bear to even absorb what was happening to that little child.
I think 'Gowri' was trying to reflect how man can be equally moved to survival, as to destruction. It appeared as if Biju Menon had bipolar disorder.
All in all, the anthology was a beautiful compilation and an emotional treat!

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