Moothon Movie Review: Nivin Pauly's finest hour
For a film populated with people for whom fate have dealt a bad hand, it's a relief to see not a trace of melodrama
For a major part of Moothon, director Geetu Mohandas and cinematographer Rajeev Ravi keep the characters drenched in shadows. Very rarely do you see their faces fully illuminated — there are multiple occasions where you see them out in the open, but the rest of the time, it looks as though they are trying hard to hide from something and nature is helping them out.
Moothon is about people who, for fear of being ostracised or corrupted by society, live under different identities. As they make it clear in the film's relatively superior second half, these people are not only running away from their true selves but also trying to hide them from others.
A boy from Lakshadweep ends up in Mumbai's Kamathipura, looking for his elder brother. The latter, seen as both an outcast and a legend by the locals, had left his home long ago. When the mystery of his departure is finally revealed, it brings out the best in not just Nivin Pauly but some of his supporting actors as well. But more on that later. Moothon uses a simple story thread as an excuse to take us through a hellish looking world which is rich in a bizarre sort of way.
Director: Geetu Mohandas
Cast: Nivin Pauly, Sanjana Dipu, Shashank Arora, Sobhita Dhulipala
For a film populated with people whom fate has dealt a bad hand, it's a relief to see not a trace of melodrama in Moothon. You don't see someone getting murdered in brutal fashion or crying for an unbearably long time. Most of the violence here is self-inflicted. Two important male characters in the film hurt themselves in two different ways, for two different reasons.
However, I wish the film explored more of the bond between the boy and Akbar, which comes off as half-baked and didn't move me on a deeper level. Perhaps this is intentional, but when the story revolves around two siblings, one expects to see more warmth out of it. Thankfully, the poignant flashback sequences involving Nivin and Roshan Mathew more than make up for it. These portions, which I'm not going to spoil, give some answers while also withholding some.
Believe me when I say that everything you've heard about Nivin Pauly's performance is true. To see the actor finally stepping out his comfort zone is a gladdening sight. It's undoubtedly the finest performance of his career. In Moothon, you get to see Nivin becoming two different people in two different time periods. It's a spectacle that makes you forget that it's the same guy who was in Premam or Love Action Drama.
But it's not just Nivin who gets to breaks stereotypes. We also get to see Sujith Shankar, usually known for playing despicable villains, in the role of a vulnerable transgender person whose relationship with Nivin's character is quite obvious despite the ambiguity. Shashank Arora is terrific as the nasty, unpredictable sidekick of Akbar who sometimes looks like the evil twin of Shah Rukh Khan (in one scene he tells somebody he is a 'Baazigar'). He is to Moothon what Joe Pesci was to Goodfellas or Casino. And Sobhita Dhulipala holds her own despite her limited screentime.
Geetu and Rajeev show Kamathipura as the harsh and cruel world that it really is — a dark, filthy world reeking of desperation and overrun by pimps, sex workers, and shady individuals capable of extreme violence. It's a world that has been made familiar to us by films like Sathya, Company, Salaam Bombay, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Also, the last time a film used similar colours was Anurag Kashyap's Black Friday. (Kashyap has contributed the Hindi dialogues in Moothon and is also a co-producer.) This familiarity may not work for that seasoned film buff who has seen many similarly gritty (or grittier) films from the rest of the world, but at the same time, it's a welcome change in a time when Malayalam cinema has been overdosing on a lot of feel-good films.