Friday, November 14, 2014

മുന്നറിയിപ്പ് (Munnariyippu) (2014)

Director: Venu
Writers:   Unni R., Venu
Cast:       Aparna Gopinath, Mammootty, Saiju Kurup

Anjali Arackal (Aparna Gopinath) is working as a freelance journalist and on her assignment as a ghost writer for a Jailer (Nedumudi Venu), she meets Raghavan (Mammootty) who is serving time for murder of his wife and a girl from his boss' family where he was working as a driver. He has already served twenty years, six more than what he was supposed to because he prefers life in prison, and he refutes the contention that he is a murderer to the journalist. She gets interested in his story and gets her hands on some of the philosophical ramblings Raghavan had written which she uses to publish a story about him on a national magazine. She gets a book deal for Raghavan's life story and pressure him to get released from the prison. With the deadline looming, Raghavan faces writer's block which infuriates Anjali even as the communication between them gets strained.

The title of the film literally translates as 'Warning' but the tagline for the film is 'The Deadline'. The big question regarding Raghavan's innocence looms large throughout the film but it is mostly in the background. Anjali does some preliminary investigations regarding that but it seems that she is convinced of his innocence without doing a thorough check in her haste to get a good story and the recognition associated with it. This might not have been a problem for her magazine story, which was more to do with his philosophical writings, but the book deal that she signs up for is supposed to be based on his life story. After he gets released from prison, she arranges his accommodation in a small room so that others don't get access to him and puts pressure on him to complete the whole thing in twenty days. In effect, like her senior colleague suggests, she has moved him from one prison to another and it is totally unreasonable and irresponsible from her part to expect someone to do a creative work with threats of deadlines and financial contracts imposed on them. The sign of things to come are shown to us when she first takes him from jail to the new accommodation, as she chides him for lowering the window glass of her car to get a good feel of how things have changed over the last twenty years. It is not clear whether it is the success that screws up her behavior or whether she was like this the whole time. I think latter is the case because of the first scene in the film where she is reprimanded by the highway police for using phone while driving. Instead of feeling a teeny bit of guilt, she proceeds to blame the colleague of hers whose car she was using for not informing her that the papers of car was not in it. 

Some people have complained about the ending but in my my opinion if you didn't see it coming, you were not paying attention. The pivotal sequence in the film is Raghavan encountering a reader in the streets who takes him to a bar to meet his friends. There they have a discussion about the idea of freedom and Raghavan suggests that freedom is extremely subjective and that for him, being in jail was not a case of his freedom being lost. He then proceeds to say that for revolution, whether it is at home or in society, bloodshed is inevitable. When they press him about whether he killed people for restricting his freedom, he gets agitated and it is only the second instance of him doing so in the whole film with the other being him encountering whom he thinks to be the people he worked for as a driver and whose daughter he is supposed to have killed. I think bar scene in itself is enough for us to draw the right conclusions regarding his innocence and where the film was heading. Another interesting question we have regarding Raghavan is that whether he was this philosophical even before he was in jail or not. During the bar scene when they ask him whether he used to write before his murder case, he replies that writing didn't come as part of his punishment which suggests that it is not something he developed while in jail. If that is not enough for the viewer, then there is the possibility that at least some of ypu must have also felt bashing her head in, like I did, when she was pressuring him to write.

So what I mean to say is that twist, if at all you felt it as a twist, was not at all disingenuous. Performances were excellent from the two leads with Aparna Gopinath being particularly great. I was perturbed by the presence of all the pseudo-intellectuals at the beginning of the film because it is a cliched feature in what are called as new-gen films these days. But that is in keeping with the film since the protagonist journalist in the film is also one. Film got some minor criticism for it being a bit misogynistic and regressive as some people interpreted the advise that some characters give Anjali- to quit doing things if they are not worth the hassle; to be targeting working women. I think that is reading too much into it since that advise is not gender specific. 

 Overall the film is a great one which does not dumb down things with silly expositions for the audience. Mammootty is no s stranger to prison influenced films with Bhootha Kannadi, Mathilukal, and Artham already in his filmography and 'Munnariyippu' is a worth addition. It was Venu's second directorial effort after a gap of 16 years with Manju Warrier starring feature film 'Daya', which also I liked when I saw it many years ago, being the debut one. He made his name as a cinematographer and hopefully wouldn't take this much time to release his next feature.

Rating: 4.5/5