Malayankunju movie review: Fahadh Faasil shines in gripping story of a grown man’s rebirth

Malayankunju is a survival drama about a man who finds himself trapped under the debris of what was once his home. Anil Kumar (Fahadh Faasil) lives in a hilltop village in Kerala. It is a rainy season and the clouds above the village are constantly rumbling, signaling a brewing storm. But, Anil is too in over his head to pay attention to the cues in his surroundings and do the right thing.

Anil, inside, wallows in the trauma of losing his father. But, on the outside, he wears a straight face, chasing away anyone who tries to approach him. He became bitter and ruthless. So much so that he can’t stand the crying of a newborn next door.

Anil is also sectarian. He can’t stand the sight of those he considers “thugs”. He mistreats them, uses caste slurs against them, and even vents his anger at a 28-day-old baby. Anil’s mother, Shantha (Jaya Kurup), tells her uncle Surendran (Indrans) that she is worried about him. His family considers his hatred for people from other castes a kind of mental illness. This suggests that Anil was not always bigoted. Something inside him has broken with the passing of his father and he is unable to make peace with it.

For Anil to have a second chance, he must let go of the hatred that has taken control of his heart. And for this transformation to occur, he must undergo the process of painful rebirth and claim his innocence.

Anil is trapped under debris from the landslide, pushing him down a pit. And Anil floats in the water like a fetus surrounded by amniotic fluid in its mother’s womb. When the time comes for him to be reborn, he must crawl through the channel-like wreckage. It’s painful and there’s no guarantee he’ll survive. Nevertheless, he must try his luck again.

Mahesh Narayanan’s camera takes the audience on the journey of Anil’s rebirth. And Fahadh Faasil delivers a natural performance of a complex man, unsympathetic but also not totally worthy of our contempt. The sound design of the rumbling clouds provides an effective soundscape for rain-soaked settings. And AR Rahman’s background music adds to the drama.

It must be such a treat to be Mahesh Narianan and Fahadh Faasil at a time when the Indian film industry is in a state of flux due to the unpredictable behavior of movie-going audiences in the country. While everyone seems to be pulling their hair out to crack the code of new-age blockbusters, talents like Mahesh and Fahadh live in a cinematic oasis, exploring the myriad of human stories, pushing the boundaries of storytelling, giving the company meaningful stories without subjecting itself to volatile market pressures.

Some filmmakers don’t need to follow trends to understand the pulse of the audience. They are content to tell stories that capture the essence of the human condition. And that kind of storytelling would never go out of fashion. It will always remain current and attractive.

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