Maheshinte Prathikaaram: Return of Good Cinema

After a series of recent box office disasters, Fahad Fazil, one of the finest actors in Malayalam cinema today, has been going through tough times. Though commercial failures, some of the recent scripts that he had picked weren’t as bad as they are made out to be – “Monsoon Mangoes” is a case in point. In a way, Maheshinte Prathikaaram is a homecoming for Fahad, with Aashiq Abu, the director of one his career bests, “22 Female Kottayam” donning the hat of the producer and the film’s co-writer Syam Pushkaran making his debut as an independent script writer. Through this film the actor was placed in his comfort zone yet again with an author-backed role that offered great potential for a natural performer like him.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram isn’t a revenge drama as the name suggests, but a cute little village story that many in the audience would relate to, especially those who had vowed to settle scores with someone or took sweet revenge for the setbacks received in life at some point. How an everyday photographer finds a virtue in life through an unexpected tussle and how his inspiration to live and his goals in life change, and whether he comes out of it successfully, form the crux of the story. When it comes to doing fine character sketches, Mahesh can be a textbook case for aspiring filmmakers.

Anusree, who plays the role Soumya, fits well into the character
Anusree, who plays the role Soumya, fits well into the character

We haven’t had many films in the commercial circuit recently that had a distinct visual language as this. You see all kinds of everyday characters that come and go in the scenes and all of them look and sound so fresh and real. Some of them do not exit gracefully though. For instance, wish we could see more of the character played by Achuthanandan, the actor who excelled in the critically acclaimed “Crime No.89”. His character, who was in the thick of things in the first few scenes, curiously goes missing after a while. That said, all the central characters are well fleshed out with the right amount of detailing. With this script, Syam Pushkaran proves how minimalist writing with its natural flow and little sparks of humour can entertain, defying the trend of artificially concocting scenes for evoking laughter or importing loads of nostalgia and rural beauty in every flashback scene or song.

An aspect that stands out in the film is its outstanding cast. With a fine method actor like Fahad, the protagonist Mahesh fell into safe hands. He leads the life of a small-town photographer on screen with ease. His chemistry with his heroines Anusree and Aparna, and with the other co-stars Alencier Lay, Soubin Sahir, and KL Antony, is a treat to watch. Of the heroines, Anusree fits well into the shoes of Soumya and the newcomer Aparna Balamurali proves that she is an actor with great potential. Soubin who has been the flavor of some of the recent movies such as “Charlie” is at his humorous best as Crispin and Aliencier has come of age as a character artist.

More than presenting pleasant visuals, Shyju Khalid’s camera and Ajayan Chalissery’s production design place the audience right in the middle of Mahesh’s world, with each tiny detail worth capturing finding its rightful place in the frame. Even the pet puppy becomes a character in many phases of his life, whether in the phase as a happy-go-lucky family photographer or during the phase of his self-discovery. The background score by Bijibal and songs penned by Rafeeq Ahmed are used at the right places to back the storytelling and are never loud or out of place. Dileesh Pothen presents the story without ever going overboard with narration or making it melodramatic at any point. Wish he had used sync sound to double the impact of the visuals that really transport you to the scene.

In the end, Maheshinte Prathikaaram is a director’s film, a film that proves beyond doubt that Dileesh Pothen is a director to watch out for in contemporary Malayalam cinema. We don’t have many filmmakers in popular cinema who treat cinema as an audio-visual medium. Maheshinte Prathikaram boasts of rich imagery that communicates the story through a visual language that weaves in nature, people and many other elements in the surroundings where the protagonist leads his life.

Mahesh richly deserves to be watched. Go for it!

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