Meppadiyan Movie Review: Unni Mukundan impresses with an earnest turn
The actor shines the most in moments where his protagonist is made to run around the block a lot
Meppadiyan is not a typical Unni Mukundan film. It was built up as a film that would present the actor in a way that we haven't seen before. Having seen it, I can say it's true. Meppadiyan, directed by first-timer Vishnu Mohan, is supposed to be a respite from the action-heavy, macho posturing roles Unni did before, and in that regard, yes, the film lives up to its promise. It's a (fictional) account of a garage owner's ordeal, but one could draw parallels, of course, to anyone who has gone through similar circumstances. His character, Jayakrishnan, is not a retread of, say, someone like Prakashan from Oru Murai Vanthu Parthaya. Jayakrishnan has little time for romance because financial and bureaucratic hassles constantly torment him. He doesn't get into any fights either. At the most, we get an intense scuffle inside a government office.
It's the moments where Jayakrishnan has to run around the block a lot -- on account of government officials, barristers, cops, money lenders -- that Unni shines the most. They become a showcase for the actor's earnestness and his attempts to prove that he is capable of improvement and has the potential to bring out his best given the appropriate material. When you think one hurdle is over, another takes its place, and then another and another... well, that's Meppadiyan in a nutshell. Take the scene where a corrupt official (Kalabhavan Shajon) makes repeated attempts to pay no heed to Jayakrishnan's requests, and the latter is compelled to take a drastic step that gets everyone's attention, even the cops. It's effective because some of us have been in the same situation except that we weren't brave enough to do what he did. In another tension-packed sequence, Jayakrishnan has to call an ambulance to carry out an important task. It's one of those ticking clock situations, where even a short delay gets one's heart racing, that Jayakrishnan has to navigate to untangle the big mess he has gotten himself in.
Director: Vishnu Mohan
Cast: Unni Mukundan, Saiju Kurup, Anju Kurian, Aju Varghese, Kottayam Ramesh
But a major chunk of Meppadiyan's best moments occurs post-intermission. Yes, the presence of Unni, Kottayam Ramesh, Aju Varghese, and the ever-reliable Saiju Kurup (as the person partly responsible for all the mess) succeed in holding our attention in certain places; in others, however, Meppadiyan becomes an endurance test. By 'others', I mean most of the first half littered with deja vu moments and cliches that seem straight out of films from a much older era. Picture this: In one montage sequence, Anju Kurian, who plays Jayakrishnan's love interest and bride-to-be, watches him play with someone else's child and smiles. (She is gradually relegated to the background as the story progresses.) Another montage establishes Jayakrishnan's virtuous nature through images that we have seen numerous times before.
But they are not as distracting as some of the supporting characters that behave like they are in a Malayalam television soap. The same can be said of the film's often intrusive background music. The one time where the music works quite well is the ambulance sequence mentioned above. I also wished the film dispensed with the songs. At least the makers had the good sense to place the Sabarimala song in the end credits. While on Sabarimala-related iconography, it figures prominently in a few places in Meppadiyan, including a clever final twist that reflects real-world developments.
It's nice to see an actor like Unni making sincere efforts to change the audience's perception of his acting capabilities. First, Bhramam; now, Meppadiyan. It's a good start. Here's hoping he surprises us with more interesting characters soon.