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Aavasavyuham Movie Review: Hilarious mockumentary that cleverly blends various genres- Cinema express

Aavasavyuham Movie Review: Hilarious mockumentary that cleverly blends various genres

Filmmaker Krishand's offbeat feature Aavasavyuham has every ingredient that holds a universal appeal

Published: 04th August 2022

I didn't see something like this coming. Filmmaker Krishand's Aavasavyuham got me wondering: Isn't it more taxing to make an experimental multi-genre hybrid film addressing myriad issues than a big-scale, spectacle-driven movie? Perspectives on this may vary, but I personally believe that a limited-budget 'epic' such as this is more challenging to pull off than one where the necessary resources are available in abundance at your disposal. Now, you might ask why I used 'epic' above. I have my own definition of what an epic is. For me, it's anything with a rich storytelling sensibility, with a large assortment of colourful characters -- essentially anything filled to the brim with a truckload of ideas without seeming forced and awkwardly tacked on. Aavasavyuham is one such.

Director: Krishand
Cast: Rahul Rajagopal, Sreenath Babu, Sreejith Babu, Zhinz Shan
Streaming on: SonyLIV

No Malayalam film since last year's Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam has made me laugh as Aavasavyuham did. Usually, most people perceive films that have had their festival circuit run as one of those 'watching paint dry' films. Aavasavyuham doesn't fall into that category. It's an extraordinary exception to the norm, just like Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam was. It comes with the ambition and swagger of any mainstream entertainer intended for wider audiences. Aavasavyuham -- alternatively titled The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt -- should've been a theatrical release, but the direct-to-OTT release makes perfect sense. The lack of big names and the slightly offbeat mockumentary style could've been impeding factors.

But Aavasavyuham, I feel, has every ingredient that holds a universal appeal. Writer-director Krishand takes a familiar science fiction trope -- a potential alien/superhero/creature walking the earth -- and combines it with tropes that run the gamut from horror (and sub-genres) to disaster to fantasy to even gangster dramas.

What starts as a simple marriage proposal situation affecting a few characters slowly snowballs into something that draws the attention of an entire state and its various institutions. When police and media get involved, it becomes a massive circus-like event. Aside from genres, it also combines different narrative approaches. The obscure opening scenes give way to a faux documentary format where each character is an 'interviewee' revealing anecdotes on how it all started. (This approach was seen previously in Warren Beatty's Reds and Christopher Nolan's Interstellar).

I have so many favourite moments from it, one of which involves the marriage proposal of an ex-criminal getting rejected. Picture an exchange between the man and his brother on the way to meet the potential bride's family. The former asks, "Hey, are you tensed?" and the other replies, "Why should I be tensed? You are the one meeting her." The next exchange goes as follows: "I should've dyed my hair." "You should've taken a bath instead." It's a little taste of the film's general sense of humour. Some of these conversations carry the spirit of Guy Ritchie or Anurag Kashyap. (I hope Krishand makes a funny gangster drama one day.)

Things get only funnier from that point, even when the events assume a darker tone. The idea, it seems, is not to feel too attached to the central character, Joy, whose background is unknown. Some believe he is a Bengali, while others suspect he is a terrorist. Meanwhile, another character is labelled a Maoist. It's the classic case of ascribing whatever label comes to your mouth to anyone who dares to mind their business. All of it leads to a riotous finale that holds a mirror to the current state of affairs. I was so impressed by how subtly and organically they all fit together. Everything shows up in the right place at the right time.

If one were to pick a likeable character, it's undoubtedly Joy, played with the right degree of coyness, earnestness, and fish-out-of-the-water awkwardness by actor Rahul Rajagopal. At one point, a character reminds us that he doesn't have any papers that hint at his identity. He just appeared out of nowhere. Nobody knows from where he came. When a woman falls for him, all hell breaks loose. For some, it doesn't matter who or what he is once they realise he could be a golden goose. One of my favourite stretches in the film is a rags-to-riches story of a dubious businessman (Zhinz Shan) who benefits from Joy's 'superpowers'. During a very brief moment, this segment assumes the tone of a mass entertainer.

Aavasavyuham is replete with analogies -- implicit and explicit; visual and verbal. Cinematographer Vishnu Prabhakar lends a mysterious allure to some portions, which occasionally remind us of the subject's 'extraterrestrial' quality when it's not trying to behave like something that happens in our world. Some of the narrative choices begin to make more sense on repeat viewings. I've seen Aavasavyuham twice, and I took more delight in its details during the second visit. Go back, if time permits, to the film's beginning after it's all over, and you'll see some of the visual flourishes coming more into focus. In several places, I went, "Oh, so that's why they did that." Yes, this is one of those films that might attain classic status. Only time will tell.

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