Ee Ma Yau (2018) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


With ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ Lijo Jose Pellissery surpasses himself, asserts once and for all that he’s a master craftsman who sees his dough even in a theme that is as stiff and unmalleable as a corpse (pun intended), and astutely crafts a chimerical ode to mortality. Hauling a perfect family portrait off the walls, Lijo smashes it on the floor, leaving us horrified beside a blue, lifeless body that grows colder by the minute, a bunch of riotous, bawling mourners and glimpses of nothing less than what looks like hell opening up above, as streaks of lightning intermittently part the dark skies.


ee-ma-yau-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

With ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ Lijo Jose Pellissery surpasses himself, asserts once and for all that he’s a master craftsman who sees his dough even in a theme that is as stiff and unmalleable as a corpse (pun intended), and astutely crafts a chimerical ode to mortality. Hauling a perfect family portrait off the walls, Lijo smashes it on the floor, leaving us horrified beside a blue, lifeless body that grows colder by the minute, a bunch of riotous, bawling mourners and glimpses of nothing less than what looks like hell opening up above, as streaks of lightning intermittently part the dark skies.

There isn’t a great deal that is innately comical about death, and the inevitable aftermath of it, and yet ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ has a droll air to it, that straightaway confronts and challenges its sombre setting. Scenarist P F Mathews, pays intricate attention to the manner in which the sub tales in the script intersect, ensuring that its multiple motile segments seamlessly connect.

ee-ma-yau-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

The magnificent opening sequence of ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ appears straight across a reverie, where the sky is blue, the sea even bluer, and the sandy shores a sparkling golden in the bright sun. There is a stark emptiness to this spectacular frame, with nothing apart from a dry, withered stump of a long dead tree, standing tall a few feet away from its centre, almost like an atypical altercation. And then, it starts filling up resplendently, with a grandiose burial march making its way in, led by decorous clergymen, followed by an array of uniformed musicians playing trumpets and blowing clarinets, men swirling vibrantly coloured umbrellas and swinging chain thuribles, and finally the imposing casket itself making an appearance, laden with green wreaths.

It has been a while since Vavachan (Kainakary Thankaraj) had been to his house, and his wife Pennamma (Pauly Valsan) isn’t amused to see her husband saunter in, after the sun had long set. She resolves to devise a strategy to thenceforth keep her man home, and gets busy plucking the duck that he had brought for dinner. Vavachan’s son Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose) is glad to see his dad back home, and in the midst of a drunken conversation, promises the old man among other things, a funeral that befits a king.

ee-ma-yau-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

Death, they say, is always your neighbour’s business, until it comes knocking on your door. Eeshi is taken aback when it stealthily arrives, laying a frosty finger here and there, leaving a chill that engulfs the voices and the people around him, sending him staggering into the night outside, where he drops down, his head giddy and floating around in a vacuum. After a few minutes of haggardness, he gets up, determined to maintain the final assurance that he had given his dad, before the man decided to call it a day.

Lijo however doesn’t let you dawdle around in a pool of optimism, and instead brings about a fierce alteration in the weather, that is in-keeping with the dreadful events to follow. It doesn’t just rain, but instead pours, with a gusty storm blowing over, and through a steadfast sequence of horrific events, the filmmaker sets about on a process of progressive demolition. Before you know it, it all comes down in shambles, and a shrill hysteria builds up to unmanageable proportions. A thunderous chaos that ensues leaves a painfully high-pitched howl ringing in your ears.

There is a visual crankiness that Lijo lends to death in ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ that finds expression in uniquely bizarre ways. A nurse arrives at the scene to confirm the death, and before leaving, irritatedly ties up the jaw before rigor mortis sets in. The rain wrecks the power supply, and in the darkness, the knot gently loosens itself, and the jaw drops open again, shocking you by the absurdity and hideousness of it all. Later, when the men bathe the body before dressing it up for the final service, its inert feet plummet to either sides, throwing up a silhouette across the white curtain that outlandishly resembles a black butterfly that has spread out its wings.

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The supporting personae that make up this character piece are all oddities in their own right, be it the Panchayat Member Ayyapan (Vinayakan) with a heart of gold, the twisted vicar with a mistrustful nose (Dileesh Pothen), the mannish nurse Saramma (Geetha Paravoor), the ever accommodating Paanchi (Bito Davis) or the loudmouth Lazer (Zubire), just to mention a few.

The farcical elements in ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ are remarkably well incorporated, and Pennamma unintentionally elevates the effect of bereavement to hilarious heights. Having dozed off beside the corpse over the night, she springs into action and switches on the wail button when a priest walls in and sprinkles holy water over the body, waking her up as well. Equally hilarious is the derision and ridicule that she cleverly slips into her loud statements  as she weeps and shrieks, none of which is lost on her visibly mortified daughter-in-law’s parents.

Things go for a tumble even further, when unforeseen claimants for the corpse arrive, the casket turns out to be half as sturdy as it had originally seemed, the grave digger ends up in the wrong hole, and the makeshift roof comes crashing down. Viewer expectations are frequently crushed, startling revelations appear, tension soars up and uncertainty and indecision hang around in the damp air.

ee-ma-yau-malayalam-movie-review-veeyen

The charming ensemble cast resembles an impregnable military line, with not even one in a mood to budge from the valued heights that the script has set for them. Vinod Jose is at his very best here, and there is a long line of staunch performances right behind him, with actors as Kainakary Thankaraj, Vinayakan, Dileesh Pothen, Pauly Valsan, Krishna Padmakumar, Geetha Paravoor, Bito Davis, Zubire and Arya delivering finely tuned, pitch perfect performances.

Shyju Khalid’s brilliant cinematography is participatory in tone, and persistently pursues the oddball characters around, even as the wind and the pounding showers rage on, drenching us in the deluge. Ranganath Ravee’s sound design is top-notch, and adds up to the disaster when it strikes left, right and centre, while Prasanth Pillai’s background score, rambles on like the unhurried, morose strains of a dirge.

Real, surreal and ethereal by turns, Lijo Jose Pellissery’s film is a luminous cinematic accomplishment that simply snatches your breath away. ‘Ee.Ma.Yau’ laughs at death on its face, and with a heedless abandon that throws caution and prudence to the winds, emerges as one of the most intense cinematic experiences in recent times.


Verdict: Excellent


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