Moothon (2019) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


Geethu’s refusal to stick to stereotypes and her affecting reading of a love tale that tears up the social tapestry earn for ‘Moothon’ a distinctive place amidst the sparsely lit up landscape of queer cinema in the country. The howls and catcalls and the loud sniggers and the off-colour jokes in the cinema halls notwithstanding, it’s a cinematic composition that needs to be appreciated for its compassionate and unapologetically adult take on human sexuality.



Alert: Major Spoilers Ahead! 🙂


In the moon basked blue waters of the sea, two men bob about looking out at the vast expanse of water that lies ahead of them. They soon move closer and turn towards each other before indulging in a mock wrestle, splashing the water all around even as the moon drops further down and the air turns even saltier with the tang of raw desire that hangs around.

Geethu Mohandas’ ‘Moothon’ is in many ways, a very pertinent stride forward in Malayalam cinema that has shied away from the pragmatic portrayal of gay men and women on screen. The few times we have had it, it has either been a veiled, almost unuttered expression of an emotion that is seen with much apprehension by most film makers themselves or it has been an overstated, purposefully deriding depiction that has little to do with real alternative sexuality.

While the most of ‘Moothon’ is set in the indistinguishably similar, crowded streets of Kamathipura in Mumbai, where Mulla (Sanjana Dipu) arrives hunting for her Moothon, Akbar (Nivin Pauly), it is the back story that it hides within its folds that makes it a cinematic triumph. As the scene shifts away from the bedlam of the single roomed brothels of Mumbai to the serenity of the placid waters of Lakshadweep, and the tale of forbidden love starts drifting around in whispers, ‘Moothon’ lights up the screen.

This turns out to be a major work by the film maker on account of the grace that she displays in evocatively illustrating two men in love with each other. To do so, she employs their longing glances that linger on for a while at each others faces, before shifting elsewhere, only to return back with a passion that keeps simmering all along.

When on a vacation, Ameer (Roshan Mathew) returns to the islands where he had grown up, he meets Akbar, a former acquaintance who is astounded to see what a debonair young man the object of his bullying had turned out to be. It doesn’t take long for the mute Ameer to convey his feelings for Akbar, who reciprocates with an equal fervour. Doomed for disaster, this love tale doesn’t go too well with their families and friends, who persuade Ameer to tie the knot much against his will.

There is a subtlety of the exquisite kind, that Geethu Mohandas retains when it comes to the narrative, and while very little is said, what is left unsaid expands the account even further. The chemistry between the lead actors is unmatched, and the gloominess, the yearning, the sparkles of joy and anticipation and the bursts of anguish and hopelessness are all thrown together into a heady mix. This makes the film not just a visual experience to behold but an emotionally charged movie that is incredibly articulate in the sentiments that it wants to convey.

Comparatively, ‘Moothon’ treads on familiar territory, when the action shifts to Mumbai, where Mulla finds herself at the mercy of human traffickers. This is the big, bad world that is cinematically well-known to us, and it also brings in characters that are immediately recognizable, whether it be Rosy (Sobhita Dhulipala) or Salim (Shashank Arora). But Geethu doesn’t let us off that easily, and lures us onto a startling climax that leaves a bleeding dent somewhere deep within.

The characterization is detailed, and all of them, barring perhaps Ameer, have almost feebly given in to the brutalities of life. On retrospect, even Ameer appears to have done the same, though he does get to do what he wants with his life. Akbar on the other hand, has emerged as a junkie, with very little hope of ever returning to normalcy, and Aamina (Melissa Thomas) has taken to a life at a dance bar with grace, or at least what she believes is left of it. There is Latheef (Sujith Shankar), the transwoman who returns distraught and drunk after a usual night out at work, and starts reminding Mulla of the mistakes that she should not commit in life. And there is the final scene where we get to see Mulla herself throwing open a door with a toothy smile lighting up her heavily made up visage, reminding us as to how terribly sick the world around has become.

These are achingly real performances  that the two lead actors come up with. They outdo each other by turns, and while Akbar is unquestionably the best performance that we have seen from Nivin Pauly as yet, Roshan is pitch perfect as Ameer.  Here are two actors who deserve a standing ovation, not just for the exemplariness of their acting feats, but also for their bravado in having accepted these roles.

There are also exceptional performances in store from an impressive line-up of supporting actors, with Shashank Arora who plays Salim, Akbar’s crony in Mumbai, leading the pack. Striking acts from Sobhita Dhulipala, Sanjana Dipu, Dileesh Pothen, Melissa Thomas, Sujith Shankar, Harish Khanna and Vipin Sharma also render ‘Moothon’ a well enacted cinematic piece. ‘Moothon’ has been exquisitely shot by Rajeev Ravi and has a pungent musical score by Sagar Desai.

Geethu’s refusal to stick to stereotypes and her affecting reading of a love tale that tears up the social tapestry earn for ‘Moothon’ a distinctive place amidst the sparsely lit up landscape of queer cinema in the country. The howls and catcalls and the loud sniggers and the off-colour jokes in the cinema halls notwithstanding, it’s a cinematic composition that needs to be appreciated for its compassionate and unapologetically adult take on human sexuality.


Verdict: Thumbs Up


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