Maniyarayile Ashokan review: A largely dull film with occasional bursts of energy
The content would have worked better in a short film rather than a feature-length film
Maniyarayile Ashokan, produced by Dulquer Salmaan, is a film that wants to give hope to single men who have been longing for someone to complete their life. It is the film that wants to pat their backs and say, "Hang in there, man. You, too, will find the woman of your dreams." The protagonist Ashokan (Gregory) dreams about starting a family. The fact that everyone around him is getting married bothers him. When things get too overwhelming, he begins to lose his grip on sanity. Will he go back to normal? Will he get what he wants?
This is a simple film with simple emotions. It has been designed to make you feel good and has no lofty ambitions. The dreaming, exchanging glances and romance does make one feel good. And, for a while there, it seems the apt film to ease the burden of this pandemic. It may work as a healing balm of sorts. But like some ineffective products, it only temporarily suppresses reality, which only hits harder. Too much sweetness is not a good thing.
Director: Shamsu Zayba
Cast: Gregory, Shine Tom Chacko, Anupama Parameswaran, Krishna Shankar
Streaming on: Netflix
This is a good-looking film with some really good-looking people, and the fact that Ashokan doesn't look like a Malayalam matinee idol works against him, despite having a decent government job. He gets the biggest blow when he overhears one potential bride protesting about his lack of height and colour. She later tells him she rejected him for a different reason. But in the world of Maniyarayile Ashokan, men with various shortcomings are championed. These men yearn for women who are not in their own league, irrespective of their flaws. Hey, the film even gets Anupama Parameswaran to have a crush on Ashokan.
This film behaves like the ultimate fantasy of most Malayali men. Every woman in this film is a sight for sore eyes. If this is the first Malayalam film introduced to a non-Malayali, they might start believing that every woman in Kerala is as beautiful as the women in this film. I would've warmed up to this film more had it showed some of these men pursuing women who don't look like models.
But that's not my biggest problem with the film. It's the writing. The content would have worked better in a short film rather than a feature-length film. And it becomes such a drag when Ashokan starts behaving like post-Sabarimala trip Sreenivasan in Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala. When an astrologer suggests that he "get married to a plantain tree" to correct the ill effects of his... err ... planetary alignments, Ashokan takes it very seriously. He really goes all the way. This portion is where the film falters. I understand the film is trying to give us a sense of his psychological state, and perhaps these moments were written to also convince us of Ashokan's caring nature, but it's not good cinema material. Also, it doesn't help that some conflicts, including that of his best buddies, are resolved without much effort.
There are some delightful cameos, some of which were revealed in the trailer and one, a secret. However, despite the half-baked writing and rather pedestrian music, the actors deliver convincing performances. Gregory certainly comes on top with his committed portrayal of a man experiencing major FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). And he gets solid back up in the form of Shine Tom Chacko, Krishna Shankar, Vijayaraghavan and Sreelakshmi. Sunny Wayne stands out with a hilarious guest appearance. Unfortunately, these actors deserved a better film.