Sunday, June 12, 2016

യവനിക (Yavanika) (1982)

Director: K.G. George
Writers:  S.L. Puram Sadhanandhan, K.G. George
Cast:        Bharat Gopi, Thilakan, Mammooty, Kalanjal
Language: Malayalam

A tabla artist (Bharat Gopi) from a drama troupe, who is hated by everyone, goes missing and police starts investigating the same. He was living in with a co-artist (Jalaja), about whom he was very possessive and naturally there are many suspects who had an axe to grind with him. Bharat Gopi doesn't enter the frame till around half hour mark of the film and we see him through flashbacks as the police officer, Mammooty in a breakthrough role for his career, interrogates various people connected to the missing person.

The film is rightly or wrongly considered as one of the best investigative mysteries from Malayalam cinema. It does a thing very well in the sense that enough clues are given for the audience to guess who the murderer is. But you do feel that K.G. George is not projecting it as a murder mystery and more like a look into what goes on behind the scenes of a drama troupe. The case isn't very complicated and it gets solved in a quite straight-forward manner. What makes the film stand out is the excellent performance from the entire cast with the one from Asokan being my favourite. The mystery aspect is not the central point of the film is evident by the fact that there are numerous songs in it for a K.G. George film and you also get extended sequences from the drama on stage at various points of the film. If you are not engrossed by that aspect of the film and just want a straight forward murder mystery, you will end up being disappointed with it.

'Rashomon' effect is a very misused term when it comes to film criticism and many people use it to describe same incident being shown while different people narrate it from their perspective. That doesn't cut it. You need to have different people describing the same incident with different takes on it influenced by their perspective, biases and memories which can be quite unreliable. What you get in Yavanika is not 'Rashomon' effect. It is just multiple narration of the same thing with great amount of reliability, with reliability being the key term.

Yavanika is a great watch for what it is but don't go into it thinking it is a murder mystery genre film. It is not K.G. George's best work like it is cracked up to be, but was the one with the most mainstream appeal. Both Thilakan and Mammooty won state awards for their performances in it. It got lukewarm response initially, as K.G. George was known as a new-gen filmmaker without mass appeal, but went on to become a commercial success due to word of mouth.

Rating: 4/5