Madhuram Movie Review: Joju George, Shruti Ramachandran stand out in a bittersweet love story
Madhuram is easily a couple of notches above director Ahammed Khabeer's debut feature, June
We all have known that person who pretends like everything is fine in spite of everything they are going through. Perhaps they believe that having such an attitude will manifest a positive outcome to whatever is ailing them. Instead, they become a voice of comfort for those who could be going through a similar experience or worse. Sabu, Joju George's character in Madhuram, is such a man. And in showcasing such a character, the film becomes yet another testament to his incredible acting prowess. There is a point where Sabu explodes because things get so unbearably overwhelming but until that point, he keeps his true feelings hidden from those around him. It's a masterclass on delivering an extremely nuanced, cliche-free portrayal. My admiration for the actor grows with every film, and Madhuram is the latest one to further cement my faith in him.
Director: Ahammed Khabeer
Cast: Joju George, Shruti Ramachandran, Arjun Ashokan, Nikhila Vimal, Indrans
Streaming on: SonyLIV
Madhuram is easily a couple of notches above director Ahammed Khabeer's debut feature, June. This time around, he directs a script by Ashiq Aimar and Fahim Safar. The idea of crafting a story around the bonding between hospital bystanders is something we haven't seen before. Now, when one hears hospital, the images usually conjured up are quite depressing, and since it's an inevitable part of the story, you do get a few moments that get you down. Given the title, I assumed the film would have an overdose of feel-good vibes, but thankfully it's not. But there were moments towards the end where I wished the film didn't go too hard on the tear-jerking button. I hoped for a less painful resolution, but then it would've looked unrealistic considering whatever the film has been building up to that point. I'm not implying that things get Sukrutham-level dark. This feeling stems from our attachment to two principal characters. You see, this is not a film that's interested in making things easy. It wants us to accept reality as it is. As a doctor (Lal) tells Joju towards the end of the film, "This is life too," when the latter finally relents and decides to live with the hand that fate has dealt him. But you also feel partly relieved at the way he takes care of the situation even though you wish things could've been better for him. You've got to respect the writers for taking that route. I'm sure there will be at least one person who will find the idea of swallowing a bitter pill infuriating. I was okay with it.
The film, which premiered on SonyLIV, is also about the characters played by Arjun Ashokan, Nikhila Vimal, Indrans, and Fahim Safar. But it's the story of Sabu and his wife Chithra (Shruti Ramachandran) that stands out above everyone else's. The flashbacks of how the two met -- through their mutual love of food -- make up some of the film's most potent portions. Their electrifying chemistry ensures that we don't take our eyes off them, not even for one second. My favourite scene is when Sabu makes a biriyani for Chithra, and while sharing the ingredients, saves the best one for last -- love. "I have lots to give," he says, with an equal mix of innocence and shyness. This line would be repeated later, in a much different circumstance. The impact registered is different at both times.
That's not to say the love story of Kevin and Cherry (Arjun Ashokan and Nikhila Vimal) is less engaging. I would say it's the second-best thing in the film. We find the recently married couple living in the same house but they seem miles apart. You wonder why Kevin continually keeps giving Cherry the cold shoulder despite the latter seeming like a person one would like to hang out with. When the reason for his detachment is revealed, I wanted to ask him, "Dude, are you crazy?" But his situation is not that hard to understand when looking at things from his perspective. However, I wish the conflict in these areas could've been more fleshed out instead of rushing towards a quick, but welcome, resolution.
At this point, I don't need to tell you about how good Indrans is. After being the center of attention in #Home, he gives us another heartwarming turn in Madhuram. His fun-filled and poignant conversations with Joju, especially in the climax, make a strong impact. However, I have to express my disagreement with these characters celebrating the idea of being married/in a relationship as if it's the greatest thing in the world. I'm aware that it's the characters' point-of-view and that it wouldn't be fair for us to expect fictional characters to echo our thoughts, but Madhuram is one of those films that, by the time the end credits started rolling, gave me the sense that being single is the much better alternative. I say this because the film does a terrific job of conveying the pain that accompanies detachment with someone you loved for the longest time. Perhaps the film is preparing single folks for all eventualities? Hmm.