Dakini Review: A daring, comics-influenced madcap adventure
Rahul Riji Nair's second film is a fun family entertainer that manages to be unconventional while still staying within the limitations of the genre
When the trend these days is to do a 'family entertainer' (preferably featuring 20-somethings) that would get people into theatres, most filmmakers would naturally be tempted to try something light-hearted because it's the safer option. But sometimes the safer option is much more challenging.
Rahul Riji Nair, whose debut film Ottamuri Velicham hasn't seen a theatrical release yet despite winning four State awards, is the latest example of a filmmaker who stepped out of his comfort zone to make something that would appeal to a wider audience. His second film Dakini is a family entertainer alright, but Rahul manages to do a couple of things that are out of the ordinary while still staying within the limitations of the genre.
Director: Rahul Riji Nair
Cast: Sarasa Balussery, Sethu Lakshmi, Pauly Valsan, Savithri Sreedharan, Saiju Kurup
For starters, its main characters are not youngsters. What would happen if four grandmothers decided to take on a dreadful mafia don? This is the basic premise of Dakini. But before that, enough time is spent establishing the characters and the little details of their world (like their eagerness to learn about WhatsApp) instead of rushing into things. Just like its four leading ladies — played by Sarasa Balussery, Sethu Lakshmi, Pauly Valsan, and Savithri Sreedharan — the film doesn't behave in a way that others expect them to. There is nothing exciting happening in their lives, and, naturally, they yearn for an earth-shattering adventure.
Enter Kuttan Pillai (Alencier Ley), an old flame of Pauly Valsan's character, Molly. One can say that Molly is the 'hero' of the story because it's her history with Kuttan that serves as the catalyst for the events that follow. We learn that Molly had chosen to lead a life of celibacy after Kuttan disappears from her life when they were youngsters in love. But there is a reason why Kuttan left her and there is a reason why he came back now, and both involve Mayan (Chemban Vinod Jose), the aforementioned mafia don and Kuttan's former employer. You see, Kuttan had run off with Mayan's money.
But it doesn't take long for Mayan to snatch him. But he wouldn't kill him yet (that's what he normally does to people who betrayed him) because he wants back the money which has now unexpectedly gone missing. No one knows where it is and who has taken it. Molly, now visibly transformed by the re-ignited passion, refuses to let go of Kuttan the second time. This provides the necessary impetus for the other three to join her in a daring plan to rescue Kuttan. Giving them company are two youngsters, Jeemon (Aju Varghese doing what he does best) and a so-called local gangster, Vikraman Parudeesa (Saiju Kurup, also doing what he does best).
Obviously, what we have is an unusual situation. Mayan is a character inside a comedy, sure, but in order to give us a sense of who the lead characters are up against, Rahul gives us a few moments to show us what Mayan is capable of. One of them includes viciously killing a man in front of his young daughter after giving the girl a candy and then reminding her father of the story of Judas ("Are you trying to turn me into Jesus?"). But Rahul also puts him in a couple of comical situations which tones down his menace considerably. Indrans (in another eccentric performance) plays Mayan's crippled father Raju Bhai.
A lot of care has gone into this film's presentation. The usual bland TV serial look, which is typical of many Malayalam family entertainers, is ditched in favour of a more colourful, comic-book aesthetic. Every shot is neatly composed and is straight out of an interior design magazine.
Overall, though a couple of situations don't work (one with a monkey, for example), Dakini surely deserves a pat on its back for taking a road less travelled.