Friday, April 22, 2016

ലീല (Leela) (2016)

Director: Renjith
Writer:    Unni R
Cast:         Biju Menon, Vijayaraghavan, Indrans
Language: Malayalam

Kuttiyappan (Biju Menon) is a middle aged bachelor who is seemingly following a Bohemian lifestyle. The very first scene of the film establishes his infatuation with prostitutes even though he is shown as someone who acts as a 'saviour' for them, who are always portrayed as a victim. The film follows Kuttiyappan and his friend (Vijayaraghavan) looking for an elephant and a very young girl but the purpose of this combination is revealed only later.

The first half of the film works out pretty much like a poor man's 'Thoovanathumbikal'. The humor in it seems a bit forced and you don't feel the complexity that was there for Mohanlal's character. The goodness of Kuttiyappan's character is established in the first scene itself and that takes away any ambiguity that would have come in handy to keep the audience not sure of his intentions. That said, without the first scene, his actions towards the end would have come off as a cheap twist. During the second half, the film takes a darker turn and it can be really described as a film of two halves. You are guaranteed to like at least on half and I preferred second to the first.

An obvious comparison could be made with Renjith's 'Njan'. Both deals with the hypocrisies of its protagonists. In Njan, Dulquer Salman played a character who is very idealistic when it comes to preaching the society while being a big hypocrite when it comes to his personal life and people around him. Kuttiyappan was born into a rich life and both his parents are dead. He is living off their wealth and has got an old domestic help to take care of things. He has taken her for granted among other things. There is a sequence near the interval of the film where he is organising a felicitation for old, and now retired, prostitutes. One of them confronts him about his hypocrisy and general male attitude towards such things.

The second half starts off with him acting as if he needs to prove her wrong but the ending of the film just proves her to be right. He acts as if he is saving the life of a very young girl from prostitution but all the decisions are made by him. It is as if the young lady has no agency on deciding things about her life. The elephant decides to intervene as a slap for his male chauvinistic hypocrisies. One could also say that his so called sacrifice of deciding to marry a prostitute, is also out of convenience as his domestic help is in a bad state and possibly already dead.

Overall, the film is a very good watch with good performances all round. Renjith had reportedly pursued both Mammootty and Mohanlal to play the role of Kuttiyappan, but Biju Menon was quite perfect for the role. When it comes to leery characters, Mammootty's Kuttettan remains to be one of Malayalam's best ones as it remained quite unapologetic throughout. Jagadeesh plays a very against the type character to very good effect. Cinematography is stunning during the first half but was a bit of a letdown during those 'Thamarassery Churam' scenes in the second half. The only song in it is during the opening credits. The film could do well at the box office as almost all should like at least one half of it depending on their taste. It is not done perfectly but is a very worthy effort depending on your interpretation of it.

Rating: 3.5/5