Ayyappanum Koshiyum (AK) is the swansong of director Sachy’s tragically cut short career. AK takes the conflict at its core from Driving License, another movie written by Sachy. Ayyappanum Koshiyum is layered, darker and action packed. It has an engaging plot, whistle worthy commercial moments, and terrific acting by the leads. And then come the layers. As footnotes that sometimes jump right off the page, and sometimes warrant a slightly longer stay on the page to drive attention. Enough and more has already been written about the movie. Here, I only look at few subtle moments that bring out emotion, like taking a marker and highlighting the footnotes.
1. To err is human:
When Koshy realizes the severity of the Abkari case he has been charged with his first reaction is one that people with privilege have on speed dial- threatening. If the movie was set in Delhi, this would be the time for ‘Tu jaanta hai mera baap kaun hai (you know who my dad is’ line). This is followed by the next weapon of privilege – bribery. When all fails, he plays the sob story card. The bed ridden mother is mentioned along with the kids waiting for him at home. Notice the policemen listening to this conversation from outside. Moments earlier they had locked the gates and were ready to stop him from leaving the station.
As he narrates his story, their expressions change to empathy. From spoilt brat , Koshy becomes the loving son and father, all within minutes. The walls separating the haves and have-nots has momentarily collapsed. When he asks for a drink, the lady constable’s gaze shifts instantly to the bottles seized from his vehicle. When Ayyapa does decide to break the seal of the bottle, inside the police station in a dry land, it is not in fear of Koshy’s political connections but because the human being in Koshy appealed to him. The writer also cleverly extends this moment to establish Ayyapa’s backstory and character. Where he ‘comes’ from, his dream of building the house and the president’s medal he is about to receive. The conversation could very well be happening on a plane or in a railway compartment between co-passengers. The police station and Abkari case dissolve in the background, for a brief moment of time.
2. Frailty, thy name is male ego
Two strong female characters decimate Koshy’s ego. First, the lady constable brushes off his sympathy . Koshy knows he has wronged the girl and lets the insult pass off. Later when Koshy visits Ayyappan’s house to brag about his ‘victory’, the firebrand Kannama takes his swag and hangs it out to dry. Shocked at having received an earful, Koshy grudgingly accepts in front of Ayyappan that he has got a proper ‘bashing’. A man without the traditional concepts of manliness would have accepted his mistake after these incidents. It is only because of his ego that he keeps egging Ayyapa on.
3. The driver’s moral compass
Koshy’s driver is faithful to a fault. He even has a fatherly affection for Koshy. He is bound by his duty to be on Koshy’s side but there is a human side to him. He does not agree in principle with Koshy’s revenge. After Kannama puts Koshy in his place, the camera pans to the driver who has a victorious smile on his face. He knows that Kannama has hit the nail at the right place but more importantly she has said what the driver cannot express.
4. Marriage of compassion
Ayyappan’s marriage is not out of love but compassion. Couple of scenes establish the relationship between Ayyappan and Kannama. When Ayyappan informs her that he will lose his job, Kannama appears nonchalant. She knows she can take care of the child. All she asks for is that Koshy is not spared. Ayyapa’s response – “Neither of us have ever done what the other has asked for”- captures the entire essence of their marriage. The ensuing silence and the expression on Ayyappan’s face is enough to communicate that this will be an exception. After years of marriage, they have exchanged their wedding vow that reads ‘Kill the Bourgeoisie’.
5. ‘Act’ of bravery
After witnessing the out of uniform Ayyappan’s show of strength, Koshy and his driver have an uncomfortable conversation. The driver is afraid that Ayyappan does not just plan to hurt Koshy but kill him. You see the fear in Koshy. He has started to believe that Ayyappan could be capable of doing this and he tries to rationalize that nobody would kill for such a trivial matter. The words are spoken to the driver but are spoken for self-consolation. When faced with an unfavourable eventuality, the first reaction is always denial.
Koshy then brags that Ayyappan is not the only one who has the experience of killing, Koshy too has killed men in his military stint. We do not know if this is a fact and he does not sound convincing. It is more like a child concocting imaginary friends to keep the fear of ghosts and darkness away. Ghost and darkness- the unknown that trigger our primal fears. Ayyappan without his uniform and with his Mundoor Vampire past has now become an unknown entity for Koshy. His ego needs him to put up a brave front.
Biju Menon’s restrained act makes Ayyappan unpredictable and scary. Prithiviraj’s versatile performance takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions vis-a-vis Koshy – hatred, pity, like, rooting, you feel all of these for the Havildar. What takes Ayyappunum Koshiyum beyond a well-made masala entertainer though are craftily sketched supporting characters and scenes like the ones mentioned above. By the climax fight if you end up rooting for both the characters, it is a testament to Sachy’s careful weaving of the story.