The two protagonists of Mayanadi, Apu and Mathan could have been one of the most loved couples if they happened elsewhere but in a Malayalam film. It isn’t that they are unanimously denied by the people of Kerala. They are being the victims of a planned and organized attack from a certain sect of ‘bhakts’ who are just very very loud ever since the movie was set to hit the cinema. Of course there is a political situation this film industry is through right now and as in any part of the world, the beholders of the name ‘bhakts’ hold zero intelligence and hence their logic behind this campaign remain irrational, naïve and more significantly foolish.
However this does not stop a whisker, from the movie being appreciated. I can’t think of many movies in Malayalam that came out presenting love. There had been a lot of films which represented love but they have all been timid, implicit and terrified of presenting love. Mayandi is different, the first of its kind and never did shy away from the reality of love.
Mayanadhi is a film that also presents you with well-developed characters whom you so often tend to realistically relate to yourself especially if you had ever been in love and I assume that to be everybody.
Into the plot and characters, it isn’t certain whether Apu and Mathan are more similar or different or they are a filigree of contradictions. Apu thinks Mathan is a survivor and his cattitude gets him out of all situations and she trusts herself there. But then the truth is Apu is a product of a privileged household who has throughout her life clung onto her privileges whilst Mathan’s survival instincts were more of a necessity than a character trait like Apu thinks and he could only survive so far. Though Apu hasn’t loved anyone else in her life, Mathan remains only an option for her. Maybe that she lost the trust and needs time for repair. Nevertheless she shows constant apathy. However for him she is the last chance of survival. Now that’s the enormity of the gulf in life circumstances of the two. The movie is so strongly built that as a viewer, these differences despite being implicit are so obviously felt. As in the case of sex, Apu can have sex with anyone she loves especially on a happy day. Mathan is a clear no there. It’s either Apu or none.
When it comes to verbal skills (English), Apu hasn’t been great in the past but she develops it thriving to survive. Mathan evidently is not the greatest of speakers but then it does not matter. Apu picks his thoughts easily even if it is loosely used language. He calls her a prostitute after her claim of sex not being a commitment. He meant to call her a whore or a slut or any random word that does prosper in character assassination but then it didn’t matter. She picks it. It isn’t that she didn’t know that prostitutes are not bad people and they are just people who took up the profession either by choice or were falling victims. Mathan didn’t mean any of those either. He only meant insult. He wasn’t thinking too highly of her at that moment when he called her a prostitute. Not since he thought prostitutes were bad people either. He was being denied by Apu and he spontaneously wanted to inflict insult but was crippled by his verbal skills. However the intent did get to her and both were on the same page.
It isn’t for a reason all these subtle distinctions and delicate qualities of the characters were cinematized nor are they random expressions contributing to the film’s political proclivity alone without being part of the plot. The movie is well consolidated when Apu leaves Mathan to destiny and cattitude and herself choosing to live in earnest hope and despair. Her class has thrived her to struggle only so far. Doesn’t it sound easier to let it go when the dynamics of struggle changes from what you are historically used to? This is exactly where the movie is thought to have done justice to its character development and that’s so different from plots where the naïve villager at the face of threat grows up super-human with no evident training or supernatural ancestral genes and ends up beating the hell out of all the bad guys.
Mayanadi isn’t all about Apu and Mathan either. There are these three friends, the wise Ashan, the jobless homeopathic mom, the pro-kiss of love brother, of course the three police men, a group of strong and independent urban women, voices against the institution of marriage, the trans-woman who isn’t frowned upon, the extent to which the Muslim female is oppressed no matter how liberated they seem, how sex is about love and choice of expression and not a commitment, how easy, cruel and disturbing are encounter killings and how wrong it would be to celebrate them . In the end, such a splendid movie and it doesn’t take a lot of intellect guessing its politics.
Review by vishnuviswam