wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
A fresh voice in cinema will always find appreciation. Director Aashiq Abu narrates a love story gone wrong with a young, insightful perspective that deserves to be lauded. Combine that with a fresh cast and you get a neat little thriller that engages in spite of a narrative that tends to sag.Read more
“Well, let's just say I like to live dangerously.” – Tommy Plympton
As the end credits of 22 Female Kottayam roll, the first credit that appears reads ‘Filmography’, and it lists three films that ’22 Female’ is inspired from. While two of those three films would make it to my all-time favourite lists, even those to whom the films are not as special would see the similarities that these films share. Naming those films, of course, would be a thorough disservice to those who are yet to watch 22 Female Kottayam.
Tessa K. Abraham is a Malayali nurse living and working in Bangalore, who is looking to settle in Canada. In the quest for her visa, she meets Cyril, a man who runs a visa agency. With his school-boyish charm and earnestness, Cyril wins Tessa over and love blossoms. But stories never end when the boy and girl fall in love, do they?
While 22 Female Kottayam is a thriller, which has been appreciated because it is at its core an engaging fiction story, why it really needs to be lauded is because of its treatment. Director Aashiq Abu, in the course of narrating the tale, shows rare insight into the life of a young, city-bred woman living in a cosmopolis in India.
Women check out a man’s posterior, they don’t fear revealing that they aren’t virgins before getting into a relationship, and some young women get into relationships of convenience with older, married men. All these, and more, are truths with no notions of morality affecting them, and a majority of India is yet to come to terms with it even in real life. Cinema, then, is still some distance away. But Aashiq Abu and his writers weave their story around these facets of life, and therein lies the truth behind why 22 Female Kottayam is being hailed as a path-breaking film.
The film however, is far from perfect. Both halves of the film are starkly different from each other, and though one can see that the makers have tried to let each side of the story build slowly, the fact remains that the film tends to sag. There are long stretches which are devoted to establishing and then re-establishing what has been established, rather than carrying the story forward. And this repeats throughout the film. Had the film been pruned by 20 minutes or so, it could have possibly been more impactful.
Rima Kallingal, who plays Tessa, has a mysterious presence that is always smouldering just below the surface. She looks convincing throughout, even though she isn’t naturally blessed with the acting mettle to pull off the complex character that she portrays. She manages to hold the film up, for which she needs to be lauded. However, I couldn’t help wonder if the film would have turned out better if a more competent actress had played the part.
Fahad Fazil as Cyril is excellent. He isn’t a typical Malayalam film hero and he’ll never be able to pull off the grand entrances that some Malayalam superstars make. Instead, he is like a counter-balance to them. Fahad Fazil could possibly be the poster boy for the new paths that commercial Malayalam cinema seems to be treading. Prathap Pothen, in a rather pivotal role as a father figure to Cyril makes a mark.
Where 22 Female Kottayam lacks the most is the music. A story like this would have been served well if it had that one hooking piece of music, that one melody which haunts the viewer even hours after he has left the cinema hall, which helps him relive the tale he experienced. 22 Female Kottayam is a film that can be appreciated better with its second viewing in the theatre, but it will possibly miss out on its repeat audiences because of the lack of enduring music. Still, with its twisted, engaging story and effortlessly slick cinematography, the film is bound to draw the claps that I heard once the end credits roll.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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