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Review: 'Aaraattu' is a Terrible Mishmash of Mohanlal's Films of Early 2000s

Aaraattu is directed by B Unnikrishnan.

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Aaraattu

Review: 'Aaraattu' is a Terrible Mishmash of Mohanlal's Films of Early 2000s

“I am not a gangster, I am not a monster, I am sinister, I am Lucifer”, goes one of the lead-up punch lines of the Mohanlal potboiler Neyyattinkara Gopante Aaraattu, almost setting the stage for what is in store. Aaraattu, directed by B Unnikrishnan and scripted by Udayakrishna, self-professed fanboys of the superstar, is a tribute to the Shaji Kailas-genre of mass Mohanlal films which had its genesis in Aaram Thampuran, and carried forward through Usthad, Narasimham, Ravanaprabhu and all the films that followed a similar template. And there are ample references to these films in many sequences, almost giving a spoof-like vibe at many points.

Aaraattu is B Unnikrishnan’s attempt at making a masala film by tapping into the superstardom of Mohanlal.

But it falls flat not only because of a marked change in Kerala’s public consciousness, but also on account of the kind of tropes that are way past its sell-by date. There are just as many references to ‘political correctness’, but it is evident that B Unnikrishnan is intent on making a mockery of it.

Aaraattu is directed by B Unnikrishnan.

Mohanlal in a still from Aaraattu.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

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Aaraattu is an out-and-out Mohanlal show as Neyyattinkara Gopan, beginning with his entry in a vintage Mercedes bearing the number plate 2255, a reference to Thampi Kannanthanam’s Rajavinte Makan (1986). There are many cliché moments and scenes harking back to the Mohanlal hits of yore, but these are used as props for generating claps than anything else. The jokes mostly fail to land and the narrative isn’t convincing even if you willingly suspend disbelief.

Aaraattu is directed by B Unnikrishnan.

Aaraattu is a Mohanlal show all the way.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

Heck, even the script of Udayakrishna, a veteran who has aced the genre of mass entertainers, isn’t cogent enough despite a lame attempt at some justification in the climax, which would again remind you of another Thampi Kannanthanam hit, Vazhiyorakkazhchakal (1987). A slim-and-trim Mohanlal aside, the film ends up a terrible mishmash of the superstar’s films of the early-2000s.

Aaraattu also has misogyny written all over it, with women of all ages save the District Collector played by Sraddha Srinath falling for the hero’s charm at first glance.

There’s Rachana Narayanakutty playing a particularly cringeworthy female character at the receiving end of Neyyanttinkara Gopan’s lecherous gaze and talk, revelling in all the attention.

One could be forgiven for confusing ‘Neyyattinkara Gopan’ with that of a temple elephant in Kerala, but Mohanlal rampages throughout like a tusker in the film with very little space for any other character despite the large cast of characters. Siddique as a clownish police officer and Johny Antony play the other significant parts, with actors like Nedumudi Venu, Saikumar and Ganesh performing cameos and Indrans in a blink-and-you-miss role. Sraddha Srinath’s character is clearly modelled on K Vasuki IAS, just as the backstory is based on a real incident.

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That someone like an AR Rahman agreed to do a cameo in such an outrageous film is astonishing, despite B Unnikrishnan revealing how he had used the good offices of actor Rahman to coax the maestro. Whatever his intent, B Unnikrishnan has basically done a disservice to a section of the audience that pines for good quality commercial cinema in Malayalam. Rehashing Shaji Kailas movies by giving it a climactic twist and taking elements from Kollywood and Tollywood to bolster it doesn’t make for a good commercial film.

B Unnikrishnan seems to have a problem with a section of the new wave of Malayalam filmmakers as his interviews would indicate, but if he wishes to make mass films with a dash of drama, he needs to find a formula that works in these times than caricature it. True, the dearth of drama in the ‘new wave’ films makes one pine for some of the vintage stuff but Unnikrishnan needs to figure out a better way to go about it. The director also cuts a sorry figure by invoking political correctness even as he lampoons the idea altogether. Perhaps B Unnikrishnan needs to shed his Left posture and pseudo-intellectual hangover than merely paying lip service to progressive thought.

The tragedy with Aaraattu is that the film might still end up as a hit in these dark times with people looking for some kind of respite from the real world, but that wouldn’t be a reflection of the film’s calibre in any way.

Mohanlal’s Man Friday Antony Perumbavoor was seen busy scanning the response of the audience during the opening day at Kavitha theatre in Kochi which wasn’t houseful for the morning show. A hardcore Mohanlal fan might still be able to find some silverlining as Aaraattu is a celebration of Mohanlal all the way. Mohanlal reprises his hit characters from the past in Aaraattu and delivers what is demanded of him without any inhibitions.

As someone who started his career in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, B Unnikrishnan seems to fall between two stools as he was neither part of Malayalam Cinema’s golden era or came too early to be identified with the ‘new generation’ filmmakers. Maybe B Unnikrishnan would do a better job of writing a mass film of his own as an accomplished screenwriter than rely on other scenarists if he were to attempt this genre again.

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Topics:  Mohanlal 

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