The Malayalam film Malikappuram which had got a good theatrical response dropped on OTT this week. I had received quite a few nudges to watch the film and so I watched it with a lot of expectations. I had mixed feelings after watching the film. On the one hand, it is a feel-good film that can be watched along with the family which in itself is a unique thing for a film these days and on the other hand, in terms of way of storytelling, it seems like an 80’s film that has nothing new to offer.
The film I would say falls in the template of the last year’s super-duper Kannada hit, Kantara – in the sense, the storyline is a very basic and familiar one but that is wrapped in a veneer of mysticism, spirituality, religion and the Almighty. Mallikapuram is about a little girl who has heard stories about Lord Ayyappa and so has a fascination for Him. She wants to visit Sabarimala the abode of Lord Ayyappa and meet Him. Of course, this mission of hers is thwarted by unfortunate circumstances in the family. How she still manages to accomplish her mission and how the hand of God comes to play in this mission is the story. The storyline is as simple as that.
Now what the writer Abhilash Pillai and Director Vishnu Sasi Shankar have done is ride the wave of the popular sentiment towards Kantara type films and accordingly package it. The screenplay is quite predictable and ambles along in very expected lines. But towards the end, there is a twist that makes it at least somewhat outside the line. In terms of storytelling, the director follows a very archaic, 80s style technique with feel-good montage songs during good times in the family, followed by montage songs in pathos during sad times, eerie and loud BGM when the villain is in the frame and exuberant and loud BGM whenever hero has his mass moments. Yes, the hero Unni Mukundan who has a tremendous screen presence has quite a few Rajinikanth-type mass moments in the film. In fact, in the film, a young boy refers to him as Rocky bhai of KGF fame to convey his adulation.
Among the cast, the young girl played by Deva Nandha steals the show with her pious screen presence and composed acting. Her friend played by a very talented Sreepath is also brilliant and he is a riot with his one-liners. The hero is Unni Mukundan who does the “Baasha” act very well balancing his mass avatar and normal avatar throughout the film.
The film takes us through the actual journey of Sabarimala during which the camera work capturing the top-angle shots of the hilly landscape is captivating. It is also an educational film for those who are not familiar with the Sabarimala pilgrimage routine.
The film tries to please all while taking a subject that is Hindu religion-oriented by projecting a secular ethos. It also tries to convey a progressive outlook by showing the young girl doing the final rites of her dad. If the template is of Kantara, there is a hat tip to the RRR film as well with that Ram Charan’s Rama avatar-type stunt choreography. Though the title is Malikappuram and refers to girls and women who visit Sabarimala, this is not about the controversy around women of all ages visiting Sabarimala. In fact, the film stays clear of all controversies and just sticks to the simple storyline.
Mallikappuram is a one-time watch if you are a fan of clean, feel-good family entertainers. I expected much more. It’s now streaming on Disney-Hotstar.
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