Last time Sachy came up with a superb face-off that lightly pushes it’s small scale canvas to a huge sophisticated mainstream canvas. This time around, Sachy who’s on double-duty as a writer and director, pushes the envelope even more wider. Ayyappanum Koshiyum (AK) is big canvas filmmaking at its best. It’s in short an epic of propositions. The plot is as wafer-thin as his previous film Driving License. If DL incepted around a procedural crisis, AK forms it’s crux from a legal invasion. If the combat in DL was centered around self-respect and dignity, AK jerks from power-dominance – which is interesting because the criticism that was unfavourable to DL came from the ones who questioned it’s insensitive grammar that fiddles a serious issue of power-abuse. Ayyapanum Koshiyum instead is foundationhead by it’s rooted politics, both personal and socio-cultural.
Firstly, look at the beauty of it’s landscape. From the imagery of Attapadi’s windmills to its cultural lexicon including Kummattikali the folk artform and many titbits that throws into delineating lifestyle of the tribes occupying this place. There are only a very few mainstream writers who are fond of displaying the cultural aesthetics of Kerala onto the screen. Sachy is someone who does this quite often, previously in Anarkali he treated Lakshadweep as a character (even though as much constrained within the borders of mainstream cinema). This is a healthy change to the Malayalam mainstream that was drastically put-off in the early 2000’s.
Now there is a Lijo Jose Pellissery and Dileesh Pothan who roots films with nativity. What Sachy is doing is largely laudable considering the state of havoc Malayalam Cinema was in, a few years back. Along with rooting it’s picturesque landscape Sachy goes further in chopping out it’s social politics. We have seen this flourishing change in films like Unda. The undercurrent of AK is ridden by dalit politics and power suppression. Ayyappan Nair (Biju Menon) has his Nair backstory and his wife (Gowri Nandha in a very enticing debut performance) is the dalit representative.
Thirdly and most predominantly, the personal politics that toys the rivalry between Koshi Kurien (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and Ayyappan Nair. The writing is god-level here that elevates every passing scene with small yet interesting conflicts. If Driving License was intimate and ‘verbal’, Ayyappanum Koshiyum is physical and external. If the former has polished sophistication, the latter has flare of native raw action and gritty local resonance. Unlike DL which had a first 30-40 minutes of character establishment, AK starts from the word go and other potential character’s are only introduced in the passing proceedings. But the pace of conflict between two of our central protagonists are not bleaked. The momentum keeps building each minute.
If the first half triggers our gravitas slowly, the second half goes rampage with it. Just see how brilliant the construction of the screenplay is, look how the film opens after it’s interval block. Sachy keeps the momentum going reckless, but he also designs the pausing interludes with ampere heat that will fire the duel. Ayyappanum Koshiyum is a smartly designed formula as well. At Least it tosses on many contemporary trends. The most obvious is Dileesh Pothan’s duology, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum and Maheshinte Prathikaram. One couldn’t deny the resemblance of the former’s visual design – especially in the cinematography. The station scenes have a vibe that circumferences the design, and so does the political subtext. The latter has an important part, much more than the similitude in drawing a climax set-up.
Well, there is also one twisty nod to Mahesh that giggled me over, when Koshi ties a rope around his waist to not have his dhoti being disrupted before the climax fight. Maheshinte Prathikaram and the crop of some new-gen movies have a hot topic of masculinity. And similar to Mahesh, AK creates a caricature around it’s masculine man. Like the superb stretch where Koshi is left in the countryside. Even the hyped up testosterone fueled climax fight becomes futile. The conflict between these men, who consider themselves as masculine gods just happens to be a road of destruction. Or Take Ranjith’s character Kurian John, which is a quintessence of a hereditary patriarchal system. See how brilliantly Koshi is being part of the chain of Patriarchy – when he slaps his wife amidst the confrontation with his Father.
Sachy is revitalising the entertainment format with vibrance. I have already praised enough of his calibre to elevate the picture to a larger canvas. But again, he brings smashing effectiveness. See the climax fight that happens to be in a market place. It slowly enacts larger crowd one hit after another and finally gets all gritty in the mud as a pumped up showdown. This is how you set-up something in the mainstream format, for big screens. Right from the casting Sachy strikes right chords, including Ranjith who gives a complete contrast and complete knockout performance from his previous do-gooder daddy roles, to Anil Nedumangad who subverts everything he has done before in a clean shaved police officer role.
Everyone might possibly go gaga over Biju Menon, as his role is emphatic and also having mass overtones. But Prithviraj Sukumaran really shook me with surprise, even in choosing such a role to out smashing a vibrant external performance like this. Bring it on, Sachy and take a bow.