Janamaithri Movie Review: An ingeniously plotted comedy
This concept could’ve easily gone wrong in the hands of another filmmaker, but writer-turned-director John Manthrickal keeps things firmly under control
There was a time when Malayalam cinema produced slapstick comedies that not only had eccentric characters delivering witty one-liners but also an ingenious narrative structure that played around with coincidences and confusion in a way that made you wonder how everything started. But it’s been ages since we have seen something like that.
Enter Janamaithri, which sort of fills that void. You get two sets of thieves, a sales executive, a group of policemen, and a newspaper boy becoming unwittingly involved in one comical mishap after another. It all begins when Saiju Kurup’s character Samyukthan, a sales manager, gets a sudden urge to take a dump in the middle of a late-night drive. Meanwhile, a bunch of policemen is serving tea to late-night drivers—a little community service idea to improve the image of the force. Chaos ensues when police constable Ashraf (Sabumon Abdusamad) is ordered to help Samyukthan relieve himself (“This also comes under community service!”). There is a wonderfully staged sequence at the beginning where Ashraf and Samyukthan go from home to home looking for a clean toilet. It’s a situation tailor-made for Saiju.
For fear of ruining the fun, I won’t talk further of the plot. There’s a lot happening in this film that’s better experienced on the big screen. The film’s team has stated in some interviews that anyone who enjoyed Aadu would like this one as well. I, however, wouldn’t echo the same sentiments because Aadu didn’t work for me at all. I find Janamaithri much superior because it’s not as over-the-top as Aadu is. It would be apt to call Janamaithri the calmer sibling of that film. It has its hyper and calm moments, and it’s this duality where most of its laughs come from.
Director: John Manthrickal
Cast: Saiju Kurup, Sabumon Abdusamad, Vijay Babu, Indrans
Take, for example, Samyukthan. He is anxious by nature whereas Ashraf is the relaxed one. The same can be said of the thieves. Vijay Babu plays Raphael, a sophisticated and cool-headed car thief who is constantly trying to put some sense into his two dim-witted brothers. Being too proud of his ancestry, he doesn’t want his siblings ruining the family name. In one scene, one of them swallows chewing gum subsequently provoking an amusing back-and-forth exchange.
Given that the film has characters with contrasting qualities bonding over absurd circumstances, Janamaithiri qualifies as a buddy comedy. In fact, it’s three buddy comedies rolled into one, with characters from each eventually running into each other, through unexpectedly hilarious coincidences. It carries the essence of something like Mookilla Rajyathu or the early Priyadarshan comedies.
Though the film appears simple and small on the surface, you begin to realise its complexity once you’ve left the theatre. A lot of the credit goes to the actors for delivering a joyous experience, especially Saiju, Sabumon, and Vijay. This is not a film interested in realism. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.
This concept could’ve easily gone wrong in the hands of another filmmaker, but writer-turned-director John Manthrickal keeps things firmly under control. He knows when to turn up the dial and when to turn it down. No recent Malayalam film has been able to make me laugh from beginning to end as this one did.