Mathew (Tovino Thomas) commits a crime and police comes after him. They want him to be “punished” as opposed to facing the law and the one piece of information that will lead them to Mathew is the picture of a girl in his phone. Aparna (Aiswarya Lakshmi) is an aspiring actress and a struggling model. She and Mathew reunite and they try to rekindle the flame which died down with a betrayal.
Personally, what I liked about this film it it’s strong narrative and depth for the characters. Each and everyone has a setup for their presentation and Abu has worked on it well. From Salt and Pepper to 22 female Kottayam, Aashiq Abu has written strong female characters and Aparna stands out. Backed by Aiswarya’s effortless acting, she left a spark on-screen with her individuality adding cherry to cake. She is dreamer and is independent in terms of making decisions. She lives away and makes money independently. She does a “genuine” screen-test where she speaks (in a calm yet rebellious manner) that she is better than most actresses and deserve a place in the industry, and is dismissive of Mathew whenever he comes into her life as she knows that he is too childish to be taken seriously. But at the same time she is not afraid of expressing her love to him. Aiswarya deserves all the accolades. Aashiq Abu has introduced the side of how women are treated in films along with rampant misogyny in the society. From how the editor insisted on keeping a slow mo shot of Sameera where her navel is revealed but Sameera politely asks him to remove it. The difference of opinion between male gaze who is dissolved into the “sexy” aspect and feminists who shoot a angry and embarrassed look while they make the rant. Then Sameera herself falls into the arms of religious fundamentalist and the independent women turns into a woman who is about to be “married” and chastised. That portion is presented in a disturbing yet satirical manner and highlights on how actions done by men prompts men to harm women. Yet Sameera manages to drop a word of advice or two for Aparna before her brother drags her away. I found the scene where her brother barges in and slaps her repulsive because it lead to applause from the theatre. Was it supposed to be funny?
The romantic aspect of the story is presented well. Mathew loved Aparna unconditionally, perhaps he was ready to take the fall for her sake. The love scenes are presented such that they go with the flow rather look “hot” or “sizzling” and does so without objectifying Aparna. The cinematographer and editor handled that aspect well and presented a modern day love story.
Mayanadhi is a flamboyant piece of art from the imagination of new generation director Aashiq Abu. I watched this film after listening to the long hype related to the same. Both fans and critics lauded the film for its steady flow of romance. To me, despite the cliches, Mayanadhi managed to deliver the kind of emotional context it intended to and is definitely one of the best Malayalam films of 2017.