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 on his phone. Aparna (Aishwarya 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, its 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 a cherry to the cake. She is a 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. Aishwarya deserves all the accolades. Aashiq Abu has introduced the side of how women are treated in films along with rampant misogyny in 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 the male gaze, men who are dissolved into their “sexy” woman vision aspect and feminists who shot an angry and embarrassed look while they make the rant. Aparna scowls at the men who insist on keeping the navel. Then Sameera herself falls into the arms of her religious fundamentalist brother and the independent women turn 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 are done by men prompt other men to harm women. Yet Sameera manages to drop a word of advice or two for Aparna before her brother drags her away. The one message she gives, that hits you in the gut, is when she asks Aparna not to go to the hospital if she falls ill after becoming an actress. If the media finds, they might make into an ‘abortion’ story. It gives light into how actresses and independent women are perceived in a misogynist society, where women have to face double the heat for an activity that also involve men.
I found the scene where her brother barges in and slaps her repulsive because it led to an applause in the theatre. Was it supposed to be funny?
The romantic aspect of the story is depicted in a non-cliched manner. 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. In Fact, it is Aparna who has the hand there. 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 and is definitely one of the best Malayalam films of 2017.