Mayanadhi (2017) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


In ‘Mayanadhi, director Aashiq Abu, armed with a dexterously penned screenplay, settles down to sensitively sketch a doomed tale of love. An impeccable reconstruction of an age-old narrative in an untested realistic setting, ‘Mayanadhi’ is the kind of film that holds a depth of meanings in those abstract gazes, a profundity of emotions in those unuttered words, and which leaves an inexplicable, seething sting at the upshot of it all.


mayanadhi-review

In ‘Mayanadhi, director Aashiq Abu, armed with a dexterously penned screenplay, settles down to sensitively sketch a doomed tale of love. An impeccable reconstruction of an age-old narrative in an untested realistic setting, ‘Mayanadhi’ is the kind of film that holds a depth of meanings in those abstract gazes, a profundity of emotions in those unuttered words, and which leaves an inexplicable, seething sting at the upshot of it all.

Following a shady money deal that goes all wrong and which leaves a police officer dead, Mathan (Tovino Thomas) speeds across to Cochin all the way from Kodaikanal, with a bag full of dollars. He meets up with Aparna (Aishwarya Lekshmi), hoping to rekindle an affair that had long been brushed under the carpet, and the two start afresh with a tight slap that she delivers straight across his hopeful face.

mayanadhi-review

Writers Syam Pushkaran and Dileesh Nair are at their prolific best here and the plethora of sequences that they assiduously craft for this love tale are heartbreakingly stunning and achingly real. This diligent yarn that is spun by indisputably two of the best writers in business, has an almost coercive air to it, drawing you in vehemently and as paper bits rising to life by a sudden gust of wind, you find yourselves swooped up and swirled about, before being haplessly drawn along its way down an outlandish terrain where these two souls –Mathan and Aparna, irresistibly drawn towards each other and yet remaining so far apart – live and love.

There is the purposive demolition of long held notions that has almost become habitual of Aashiq Abu films, and ‘Mayanadhi’ is no less different. Perhaps, Aparna is unlike no other woman that we have had in Malayalam cinema; one who probably for the first time ever, is unapologetic and unrepentant for a sexual encounter that she has had, and enjoyed, with the man she concurrently loves and hates. ‘Sex is not a promise’, she resignedly mutters the morning after, when much to her astonishment Mathan starts piecing the pieces of their future together. Her sudden, honest retort throws the man into an anticipated state of puzzlement, and prompts an impromptu rejoinder on how much she sounded like a sex worker.

mayanadhi-review

And there are the umpteen uncertainties that hang around this story of love, as the focus shifts radically away from love’s obligations and responsibilities. Aashiq shines the spotlight on personal choices instead, and through stark strokes lays out how complex and fiddly it could be to delineate something as outwardly simple and straightforward as to what you want from life. Or rather, who you want in your life.

The shroud of obscurity that encompasses Mathan’s persona is what renders him an unlikely male lead, and there is little about him that is revealed, except through Aparna’s sporadic statements. Mathan does retain that charmer smile on his ruggedly handsome face throughout, as he persistently trudges along a road that looks headed nowhere. For a fleeting moment the grin gives way to an expression that suspiciously looks like one steeped in despair, when on a night Aparna begs him to leave her alone for good, and he dejectedly walks away, promising to be back the next day.

Mayanadhi-review

There is a cloak of isolation that Mathan has invariably pulled over himself, and he knows better than anyone else, that there is only one person in the entire world, who could snatch it away from him, and have the sun shining down on him again. Pulling his baseball cap over his forehead, he hangs around where she lives, waits for her at the sidewalks and follows her around, relentlessly egging her on to fly away somewhere far with him, where his dream of an apartment with a bathtub to boot, awaits.

Aparna is in all probability one of the most insecure women you would meet out there, and given that life hasn’t been much fair to her, it doesn’t come across as much of a surprise. She has frustratedly watched less gifted and less attractive women making it right to the top of an acting career that she has always aspired for, while she has been left behind with literally little to be proud of, appearing for auditions, compeering for gala wedding receptions and generally making do with an odd ad assignment here or there.

There’s always the basic, elementary way out that most film makers opt for and tackling diversity isn’t frequently one of them.  However, Aashiq has remained a filmmaker, who has forever had an eye for  the atypical, the varied or at times even the uncanny, and with ‘Mayanadhi’ he avows that there is no stopping him from walking those extra miles to pull his markedly dissimilar vision off,  all the while refusing to stoop down before commercial demands and constraints.

mayanadhi review

This is also a film maker who has repeatedly astonished us with his choice of actors, and puts forth an exceptionally impressive line up, in ‘Mayanadhi’ as well.  Leading the pack is none other than Aishwarya Lekshmi, who is pitch perfect as the lone girl lost in life, and who adroitly avoids all the traps that she could easily fall into while essaying a role that demands her to be at once, flagrant and reticent. The remarkably subtle instincts that she brings into her portrayal of Aparna, should easily leave her a top runner for the acting honours this year.

‘Mayanadhi’ is a rediscovery of the actor that Tovino could be, or rather is, and this debonair young actor has a magnetic hold on the camera, as he slowly and steadily gets to the task of defining the enigma that Mathan is. Ostensibly a wrenching portrayal that gets all its chords right, Tovino’s performance has more nuances concealed within, that reiterates what a fantastic actor this man could be.

The supporting actors are no less brilliant, be it Leona Lishoy as Aparna’s friend Sameera, or Darshana as the counsellor, who is a common friend of the two, Harish Uthaman and Ilavarasu as the fuming cops from Tamil Nadu, Unnimaya Prasad as the assistant director or none other than Lijo Jose Pellissery and Basil Joseph in amusing cameos as two young film makers in the industry.

mayanadhi-review

The coarse, almost subdued tone that Jayesh Mohan adopts for his exemplary cinematography is one that so delightfully amalgamates with the temper of the piece. The lush visual nightscape that Jayesh lays out before us is literally poetic, capturing the big city that lies splattered under the neon lights, veiling bountiful secrets behind its dark corners, and there are the lyrical close-ups as well, each of which tells a story of its own. Rex Vijayan and his sombre background score emphasize as much on silence as on the notes that accentuate the theme of the film.

Quite intriguing and leisurely paced in its own terms, it’s not every day that a commonplace yarn rakes up in you, the kind of sensation that ‘Mayanadhi’ does.  Nimbly scripted, fiercely performed and daringly directed, Aashiq Abu’s  ‘Mayanadhi’ is an imaginative endeavour that is bound to leave misty eyes in its wake.


Verdict: Good


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