Ee. Ma. Yau Review: A bona fide classic
Another commendable addition to Lijo Jose Pellissery's filmography
One of Lijo Jose Pellissery's strongest qualities is that he never makes the same film twice. Each film of his is different from the one before it. He may go back to similar settings, but when it comes to the subject matter, visual style and characters, Pellissery isn't interested in recycling old ideas. His new film, Ee. Ma. Yau, is no exception. The film sees him returning to a territory he explored in his 2013 film Amen -- events occurring around a Christian family residing in a coastal village. And as usual, his penchant for dark humour is on full display here.
Direction: Lijo Jose Pellissery
Cast: Chemban Vinod Jose, Vinayakan, Kainagiri Thangaraj, Pauly Valsan
One could call Ee. Ma. Yau a spiritual successor to Amen -- you may notice a few nods to it here and there. In Amen, the central conflict came from one man's wish to ace a grand music competition; here it comes from one man's wish to give his father a grand funeral. Anyone looking for another Angamaly Diaries should look elsewhere. This is a smaller, simpler, and much better film. It has none of the hyperactivity of Angamaly... You see death approaching from a mile away when a father Vavachan (Kainagiri Thangaraj) and son Eeshi (Chemban Vinod Jose) indulge in a casual conversation about a funeral. This one scene carries enough poignancy to give us an idea about the depth of the bond the two share.
When the inevitable finally happens, Eeshi is devastated. And to further dampen the proceedings (literally), Mother Nature sends strong winds and rains his way. But thankfully, Pellissery keeps the film free of melodrama -- another of his strong suits. I'm not sure if I should call this a 'sad' film because there is a significant amount of laugh-out-loud humour thrown in, which shows up at the oddest moments. One of the film's most amusing characters is the moderately antagonistic priest (Dileesh Pothan) who is into detective stories and imagines himself as your friendly neighbourhood Sherlock Holmes. When he listens to a rumour-monger who narrates his theory about Vavachan's death, Mr Holmes decides to investigate. His actions play a major part in the third act.
In one of the examples of the film's ingenious dark humour, a gravedigger collapses and dies in the grave he dug for Vavachan. And there is the case of the forensic doctor who gets so drunk the previous night that he can't be bothered to come and inspect Vavachan's body. The treatment of the material is such that none of this comes across as cheesy. Remember that funeral scene from Angamaly...? There are times when this film feels like an extended version of that scene. As was the case with Pellissery's previous film, this one too emits a strongly realistic vibe. The handheld shots turn us into one of the spectators, putting us in the middle of the action, be it the relentless wailing of the dead man's widow or accompanying the male characters while they make arrangements for the funeral.
The actor who excels the most here is Chemban Vinod Jose as the son trying hard to fulfil the promise he made to his father, and at the same time not give in to the unforeseen pressures he is subjected to as a result of the priest's actions. Vinayakan plays Ayyappan, Eeshi's admirably loyal friend trying to help him out of sticky situations, even if it means having to beg in front of someone. Vinayakan's talents should've been discovered a long time ago. Pauly Valsan is very effective as the widow who possesses the ability to convincingly start and stop crying at the drop of a hat, and remain funny while doing so. Also worth noting are the efforts of cinematographer Shyju Khalid, who captures some of the most elegant and stunningly gloomy images ever put on film. Ee. Ma. Yau is a bona fide classic.