Munnariyippu (2014) – “Fair is foul,” or A Warning against Nagging

Munnariyippu“So from that spring whence comfort seem’d to come
Discomfort swells”

(Spoilers ahead)

The film is both spoiled and saved by the near-farcical ending which is near-farcical simply because the surprise end was out of the jack-jumping-box for me–and if it has been able to flabbergast me, me who is considered rather talented when it comes to predicting ‘surprises,’ then there is no saying about the average audience out there.  Somehow, I had taken it for granted that Raghavan the protagonist was not a criminal. After all, Mammooty would’t be acting in such a heinous role as that of a criminal unsmart enough to get caught, imprisoned, and more appallingly still, to live out out his years in obscurity. Had the role been played by someone less known and therefore less typified, you would have given him the benefit of doubt and so, the ending would not have been as grotesque, so to say.

Raaghavan turns out to be neither victim nor armchair philosopher, but a “man of his word,” a man ruthless (or brave, according to how you choose to look at it) enough to practice his idiosyncratic philosophy of freedom. In a fundamental sense, this freedom is the freedom away from nagging people, particularly, domineering women, right to keep private what one chooses to keep private, freedom not to call a spade a spade, but rather call them either tools or impediments to one’s freedom. In short, freedom to practice one’s particular brand of freedom.

Therefore it is not in bad faith that Raghavan does away with the not-so-likeable Anjali, who we feel was asking for it with her incessant nagging, bullying, and lording it over him. He even does it with a tricky smile, which might be saying, Another obstacle to my freedom annihilated–and in this one literal stroke, all future hindrances to my freedom will be removed because I will be back in jail. Yay! So it appears that only women are these so-called Impediments.

I guess the film’s a warning against the tendency to discriminate between the artist and the ordinary (wo)man, between high art and low, vulgar “art.”  Raghavan is considered worthy of fame, of print, because he spouts original, wise-sounding philosophy behind bars. Moreover, he asserts he has killed no one, and this smacks of mystery, of suspense, the thing that one is deprived of in ordinary life and times. Unlike those of the rest of the boring, duly punished, rightly imprisoned prisoners, Raghavan’s story needs to be told, to be heard. The journalistic world is in a frenzy, excited at having caught a prey, and there are fights for ownership over him, because when Raghavan’s story is told, the side actors, the “well-wishers,” and the patrons are all going to benefit from the afterglow of fame and success. In this sense, to tell your story is to sell yourself, to be a celebrity is to become prey and nourishment to assorted feasting parasites that concurrently, help preserve your celebrityness (point to be noted: this is different from cele-bratty-ness, which is what Anjali’s behaviour in the latter part of the film suggests).

So much about the story. About the rest of the film — I feel finally in my zone, because if you haven’t noticed, I was pointing out the “pros” of the film thus far — to be liberal, you might say it is decent, with a decent acting (Mammootty and the shop-boy tops), a decent script, decent cinematography, and so on and so forth, as a teacher used to repeat ever so often in my lit class. But, to be honest and therefore, hard on the film, I would call it ambitious yet mediocre. Casting Mammooty in the role feels like a gimmick, not solely because I was taken in by that gimmick. Unhaloing him requires more narrative time and space than what is given. And this unhaloing seems not to be on the filmmaker’s agenda, as is evident in the light hearted exchange between the boy and Raghavan who reveals his un-updated knowledge of current affairs when he asks who Dulquer Salman is.  Maybe this meta-filmic reference strengthens the impression that Raghavan aka Mammooty is the perennial good guy, in order to dispel any doubts about his claim of innocence.

The preponderance of stock characters, cameo roles, insipid dialogue for those stocks, and the smattering of one-sided philosophical discussion, weigh heavily against the depiction of journalistic life, of the publishing world, of ghost-writing, of coerced writing, of modern ideas of marriage, of ambitious, smart, career women, and societal prejudice against them (seen in the initial police scene).

CLOWNIN’ Score: 3/5

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