Mohan Kumar Fans Movie Review: A fairly effective blend of satire and emotional drama
Despite the excess melodrama, Mohan Kumar Fans manages to be a smile-inducing entertainer
The name Jis Joy has always been synonymous with feel-good cinema. His new film, Mohan Kumar Fans, is no outlier. As in his earlier films, you get trademark Jis Joy elements like the 'motivational' lines that seem straight out of Facebook, the warm colour palette, and the characters simply being... nice to each other. And the director seems to be proud of travelling the same road with no intention to change. However, he has played things a little differently this time.
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Siddique, Anarkali Nazar, Vinay Forrt
Director: Jis Joy
The feel-good elements have been dialled down a bit, especially in the second half, despite the abundant 'nanma' elements. And this is why I think Mohan Kumar Fans is superior to the director's earlier films (Vijay Superum Pournimyum being an exception because it was a remake).
Describing a Jis Joy film with the word 'intense' may seem odd, but it's what made Mohan Kumar Fans work for me more than his previous films. The intensity comes courtesy of the titular character played by the ever-reliable Siddique. It's Mohan Kumar around whom the entire film revolves. He is the 'hero' of Mohan Kumar Fans while playing one. A down-on-his-luck actor getting a comeback of sorts with a strong arthouse role, Mohan believes his glory days are not over yet. And despite his producer sadly informing him that their film won't get a longer run in theatres, Mohan hopes for recognition through state and national awards.
So what is Kunchacko Boban role in this film? He is Krishnan Unni, Mohan Kumar's driver, who also dreams of being a celebrity. Casting someone with a matinee idol look as a driver may seem unconventional, but it doesn't seem unrealistic either. At one point, a character tells him that a driver shouldn't dress like a groom. It brings to mind Priyadarshan's Mazha Peyyunnu Maddalam Kottunnu, in which Mohanlal's character had to pretend to be a driver. Though everything is about Mohan Kumar, the film has just as much space for Krishnan Unni. His actions have a direct impact on Mohan's life. The story of a young man trying to make a so-called washed-out actor happy is not a new one.
Vinay Forrt shows up as Kripesh, aka Agosh Menon, an intolerably self-centred and attention-seeking actor with terrible dancing skills. We get a nod to Premam when he rudely tells a choreographer to come up with some "simple steps." Agosh is easily the film's most hilarious character. And given the loudness of his presence, there are moments where he nearly overshadows the others. Agosh represents every actor using cheap tricks for the sake of publicity. The women are not behind either. A female actor refuses to "leave her character" even after the director yells 'cut'.
But again, this is the story of forgotten artists and how unfair Malayalam cinema can sometimes be to them. You get characters talking about losing your ego when you are at your lowest, the importance of awards, and the struggle to stay relevant at a time when the taste of both filmmakers and audiences are changing. You may cringe at some of these lines, but they speak the truth. Jis Joy uses this opportunity to incorporate some satirical elements involving the film industry — a la Driving Licence or Udayananu Thaaram — which enhances the narrative, particularly in the first half.
It's admirable that the director goes for a more serious tone in the second half. But this is also where the film falters a little due to the injection of excess melodrama, not to mention the predictability. These portions made me wonder whether this was a Jis Joy film or some old Kamal or Lal Jose film. It gets to a point where every actor in Mohan Kumar Fans behaves as if they are competing for a national award.
But Jis Joy does something interesting with the finale, which sort of redeems the bleak moments that preceded it. And when you have actors like Siddique, Kunchacko Boban, Vinay Forrt, and Saiju Kurup (I wish he had more to do), Ramesh Pisharody and Krishna Shankar having so much fun, what's not to like?