This Onam season, Mohanlal has made an addition to the list of the most obnoxious films he has worked in. Ittymaani: Made In China, directed by Jibi-Joju, is based on a strange premise. Annamma, a 65-year-old widow and a mother of three grown-up children, marries her neighbour, a man several years younger than her, one fine morning. This unusual incident shakes up the sleepy village. Her estranged children come running to the house with their respective families. The men of the village wait outside the gate to watch the unfolding drama. The woman gives them no care, and walks into the house with her new husband. It sounds good and simple, doesn’t it?
The undertone in this scene and everything that follows is a crass sense of humour that one finds only at the bottom of the barrel. Annamma becomes the film’s primary joke; a complete object of ridicule, not just for the characters around her – including her new husband who is the film’s protagonist – but also for the film and the mass watching it. The film inserts subtle and loud cues for laughter whenever she appears on the screen as a wife. Jokes are made on her sex life – “My vehicle has a great body and pick-up,” winks the husband as she walks by. Characters, one after another, appear and remind the audience of her age, and her status as a mother. The film mutes her and turns her into an opportunity to repeat the age-old prevailing sentiment that women past their prime cannot have any unsaintly desire. This worldview binds the film on a meta level too. Raadhika Sarathkumar, the 56-year-old actor, plays Annamma, while 59-year-old Mohanlal, with whom she danced to the famous romantic duet ‘Vachalam En Mounavum‘ in 1985 film Koodum Thedi, plays Ittymaani, the charming young man she gets married to. The film ends when she happily goes back to where she belongs (to her old saintly position as a mother) while he gets married to a London-based doctor, played by 28-year-old Honey Rose.
Ittymaani: Made In China gets its title from the protagonist’s convoluted backstory. Ittymaani was born in China, to Theyyamma (KPAC Lalitha) and late Itty Mathan (Mohanlal in a bizarre Chinese get-up) who migrated to China to start a business of counterfeit goods. Again, for no reason, we get a forgettable song and a couple of scenes where you see Mathan teach martial arts to Chinese youth. The conversations between the mother and the son in Chinese is another humour trope the film uses. Everything about the film – production design, cinematography and the way scenes are designed – stink of plastic, like one of those products Itty Mani manufactures. In the former half, scenes with no apparent connection are stacked like pieces of stage skits.
Then, there are references to current issues that the film sneaks into the narrative. The vicar of the local parish, a long-lost friend of Ittymaani visits his counterfeit goods factory and picks up a bottle of health drink powder. “Vicars don’t need a lot of energy,” someone remarks, referring to the Franco Mulakkal case. Cue: Laughter. Irony dies a painful death when one of the sub-characters, a young woman, falsely accuses Ittymaani of sexual harassment, and he proves his innocence using hidden camera footage shot by his pervert assistant who had been stalking her. Mani makes a strong speech on why women should never sell their honour – a sly dig taken at Me Too accusations – and two scenes later, for absolutely no reason, he tells a sub-character that his sister is a ‘treat’. That this film is set to release in China and Hong Kong should ideally be an issue of national concern for India.
Ittymaani’s worldview is centered on capital – an important factor that links him to China. You see that his moral compass is, to a great extent, money-centered too. In a village where the majority is a strong religious community, he manages to touch people’s lives and bring about changes. In a different film helmed by sensible individuals, this character outline would have made for a memorable character. But in Jibi-Joju’s poorly constructed film, Ittymaani and his company are a group of unfunny men who hold beneath their cool outerselves a set of primitive values that they fold into pamphlets and throw into the air.
This Ittymaani: Made In China review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.