Vattamesha Sammelanam Movie Review: Ingeniously bonkers, but patchy
The film not only references movies, real-life events, and celebrities but also itself and its makers
Among the multitude of characters in Vattamesha Sammelanam is an actor who decides to volunteer for Kerala's flood relief effort while his new film is playing in theatres. Addressing the media, he says, "I'm not doing this for publicity. If you think I am, don't watch my film." In another scene, an actress comes out with her Me Too story and mentions a 'fried fish' story. Also, an undercover police officer tells his superior that he used to be an 'Odiyan' before he joined the force.
Director: Vipin Atley
Cast: Vipin Atley, Jibu Jacob, Sudhi Koppa, Pashanam Shaji
Vipin Atley's new film not only references movies, real-life events, and celebrities, but also itself and its makers. Vattamesha Sammelanam is what Aju Varghese would've been if he were a movie. It revels in self-deprecatory humour. This can either interpreted as a defence mechanism or a camouflage for the lack of quality. I guess this film has a little bit of both. As its title suggests, it's a 'roundtable conference' of many ideas. Some ideas are good, some weak.
It's an anthology with one central thread while occasionally switching to other stories and coming back again. Most of these stories are connected with the film industry and feature names such as Jude Anthany Joseph, Jis Joy, Major Ravi, and director Jibu Jacob in stories that are at times funny and at times sluggish.
A failed Punjabi-Malayali businessman/gangster arrives in Kerala for the purpose of making a flop movie in the hope of claiming bankruptcy. This movie, it later turns out, is exactly what we are being shown. So this makes Vattamesha Sammelanam not just meta, but meta square (or meta cube). It's a film interested in listing and showing its shortcomings, including those if its own makers. In one scene, someone suggests Vipin's name for directing the gangster's movie and says, "Seeing his face in the promos, nobody will come to the theatres." Perhaps this is drawn from Vipin's own experiences with his first two films. If what he believes is true, can we call this 'therapeutic' writing?
Speaking of therapy, my favourite segment in the film is about a man suffering from anxiety (played by Vipin himself) whose triggers are later revealed in an interesting manner after his therapist suggests a way to get over them for good. Anyone who still carries the baggage of unpleasant situations from their childhood may find it relatable. However, none of the other shorts is consistently engaging, except for a segment called Kariveppila. The ideas are fresh but the execution, lacklustre.
There were hardly 20 people in the theatre I saw this in. Most were likely reporters covering the entertainment beat for various publications. Or perhaps the majority of the viewers were friends of the film's crew. I can't say for sure. Be that as it may, I must give credit to Vipin for getting me interested in the film through its 'negative publicity' (also a topic discussed in the film). The film's innovative trailers come with the tagline 'The worst movie ever made in Malayalam'. After having seen the film, I can say that it's not. Far worse movies have been made here before. It may be imperfect and patchy, but one can't deny the ingenuity of the ideas.