Aviyal Movie Review: Moderately and spasmodically engaging coming-of-age drama
Although Aviyal exhibits some interesting flourishes in a few places, it is let down by some familiar and predictable outcomes
How many ways can one tell a coming-of-age story? An infinite number of ways, as filmmakers across the globe show us every year. Some turn out good, some don't. A while back, we saw Vineeth Sreenivasan giving us Hridayam, which, despite some familiar beats, managed to impress with a fresh approach, be it in the narrative structure or the use of music. Aviyal, from filmmaker Shanil Mohammed, aims to tell the evolution of its protagonist in a unique manner, and you get the feeling that you are watching something not seen before, but only up to a point -- let's say, until the interval. After that, it struggles to stay afloat due to several cliche-ridden moments.
Director: Shanil Mohammed
Cast: Siraj, Joju George, Anaswara Rajan, Anjali Nair, Ketaki Narayan, Athmiya
However, Aviyal is not without its pluses. And most of them have to do with leading man Siraj as Krishna Kumar, who goes through multiple transformations over the course of the film. By the time one is done with the film, one gets the feeling of having watched an anthology of five short films featuring the same character in different get-ups. I found that approach refreshing. Joju George plays the older version of Krishna Kumar, who is now recounting his past adventures -- which sum up the entire film -- to his daughter (Anaswara Rajan) when she is nursing a heartbreak. The flashbacks come to the older Krishna while trying to avoid a head-on collision. He tells her that his whole life just passed by him in a flash. He just remembered his past flings.
When the film goes back to his high school days, I expected it to be just like any other high school romance that we have seen before. Fortunately, Siraj manages to inject these portions with subtle complexities and, at times, with a comical touch. But the film is careful not to make him too likeable. His conversations with his father, practically his best friend, make up some of the film's warmest moments. The film has one hilarious scene where Siraj proposes to a high school crush, the outcome of which made me laugh out loud. But in what follows later, there is no novelty to be found. This lack will show up in the rest of the film in multiple places.
I found the chapter with Siraj and Anjali Nair the most impactful because it prefers to imply many things. The young man falling in love with an older, married woman trope gets a fresh spin here. But the remaining chapters of Siraj's life didn't appeal to me much because we have seen the brooding guy with the long hair and beard getting into fights and other acts of aggression before. I also wish all the female characters -- excluding Anjali's character -- had striking personalities. An attempt is made to give us a sense of their characters through one or two lines, but they don't help much. In Anjali's case, that line about Madhavikutty speaks volumes. It is enough to explain what is going through, despite the vagueness. Everything else from then on is bogged down by predictable outcomes, familiar acts of aggression and introspection. There is even an Autograph-style 'reunion' scene, only here, it's a funeral instead of a wedding.
I must credit Siraj for making the film worth watching at least once because his transformation through four chapters is quite impressive. And I'm not talking about the physical transformation alone. You can see the changes in his demeanour, voice and diction. By the end of the film, the character is not the same person he was before, even though he goes back to his roots. Even if the film didn't work for me in its entirety, I'm at least thankful to the makers for giving us an instantly addictive, 90s-flavoured track in the form of Manjin Thooval, crooned by KS Chithra and Unni Menon and composed by Sharreth.