Saajan Bakery Movie Review: Whimsical, leisurely-paced sibling drama
There are several aspects of Saajan Bakery that evoke European comedies, such as the colours and music
Aju Varghese is the last person you would expect to remind you of some earlier roles of Mohanlal. You wouldn't believe it if I told you that I saw a glimpse of the Mohanlal from Pavithram and the one from TP Balagopalan MA at two different places in the film, albeit for a very brief period. Aju Varghese plays both father and son, separated by time. When the two get to share the screen, one of them has turned into a photograph.
In Saajan Bakery, named after the father, the son fails to live up to the latter's name. But he also hopes to avoid his mistakes. Usually, it's the mother who warns the son against inheriting the problematic father's qualities. In this case, it's the elder sister Betsy (Lena) who begins to see some of Saajan's displeasing traits in Bobin too. The bond of the brother and sister is uneasy. Bobin is looking for ways to get rid of her from his house. She lives there because she is going through a divorce. These two are complicated individuals who could repair their relationship if they put aside their egos and sit down to have a transparent conversation. In one scene, Betsy says she doesn't want sympathy; she only wants someone to express her feelings to.
Director: Arun Chandu
Cast: Aju Varghese, Lena, Ganesh Kumar, Ranjitha Menon
Betsy is undoubtedly Lena's best role. Though you find her character in an irritable, confused and restless state for most of the film, Lena manages to make Betsy endearing, and that's because her craving for communication is so relatable. Some people look perpetually annoyed because they need to vent to the right person. But Bobin is also going through almost the same phase. He has to deal with his sister, make a man out of himself, and also figure out how to make his relationship with the pleasingly quirky Merin (Ranjitha Menon) work. Merin is a peculiar character. She works in a medical laboratory and occasionally breaks the fourth wall Amelie-style (or Fleabag-style) to speak to the audience. She is also someone who can stand up to the male characters. She gets enough screentime and is not one to fade into the background.
There are several aspects of Saajan Bakery that evoke European comedies, such as the colours and music. The team has gone to the pain of creating an Umbrellas of Cherbourg-level of colour co-ordination. Note the scene where Lena's costume beautifully matches the vineyard in the background. And Prasanth Pillai's refreshingly original music is a combination of genres. It infuses so much warmth into the narrative. At one point, we get a tribute to Redbone's Come And Get Your Love (which showed up on the soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy) and another one to Michael Jackson (I can't wait to see what Prasanth has conjured up in the upcoming Malayalam dance film Moonwalk). His music adds a contemporary touch to a 'naattinpuram' story, just like it did in Kumbalangi Nights.
I found the film's leisurely pace refreshing too. It's not in any hurry. I initially was a bit confused about some of the characters' relation to each other, like the ammachan played by Ganesh Kumar who, by the way, is funny and endearing. His role plays out like an older, mature version of the character he played in Manichithrathazhu. Some of the comical moments are quite unpredictable. Don't underestimate ammachan when he smiles. He might react differently in the next scene. He is also capable of saying things openly to Bobin's face. Interestingly, he is the only character who gets along with both siblings, and also the one who is capable of putting some sense into them.
We get some neat resolutions in the end, but not all of them are tied up, and I mean this positively. Saajan Bakery doesn't believe in spelling out everything for the viewer. When the film ends, the characters still have other issues to deal with, but they do manage to overcome the central conflict. When Bobin goes through a life-transforming situation, Aju conveys the shift in a way that doesn't seem forced. We trust Bobin enough to let him make the decision that's right for him. He still has some flaws left, but at least he gets to a place where he won't be needing anyone's lectures. To borrow a quote from the recently released Vellam: "Insult is the biggest investment." Oh, and this film might give you the urge to have a freshly-baked cream bun.