Sathyan Anthikad must have had a poignant story to narrate, but he waits until the final quarter of Makal to flash a glimpse of it. A man finds a daughter in a stranger. A teenager, living in an insular upper-middle-class cocoon, experiences a wave of empathy for a man from a vastly different milieu, who does not speak her language. These ideas, however, remain nascent, while the veteran filmmaker keeps himself busy dishing out a bland slice-of-life family drama.
Julie (Meera Jasmine) and her 17-year-old daughter Aparna (Devika Sanjay) live in a villa in a well-to-do neighbourhood in Kochi. Into their happy life, enters the man of the household, Nandan (Jayaram), who had been toiling in a central Asian city as an automobile mechanic for fifteen years. After losing his job, Nandan returns home to start life afresh.
Anthikad, strangely, believes the mundane day-to-day scenes from this household are enough to keep the audience engaged for most of the film’s running time. There is not a conflict in their life worth the viewer’s attention. In the scenes that follow Nandan’s homecoming, he behaves like a newcomer in the family, as though he never visited the house even once in fifteen years. The family hardly feels the heat of Nandan’s sudden unemployment because they have enough social support to fall back on. He launches a spice powder unit which, without hitting many roadblocks, becomes a successful enterprise. The daughter is a head turner and an all-rounder at school, who gets special tuitions for her medical entrance test at an elite institution run by her uncle. The mother, a delicate darling, flawlessly manages the household and even gets a coveted government job. The narrative passively takes the viewers on a tour of this plush but infinitely boring haven.
Jayaram reinvents himself, controls his tendency to ham in comic scenes, and delivers quite a moving performance in a role that does not rise above the typical. Meera Jasmine, unfortunately, often finds herself pushed to the background of the proceedings. Jasmine, a powerhouse who rose to fame playing the feisty girl-next-door, is stuck to playing demure housewives in movie after movie in her thirties. Meanwhile, her former favourite male co-stars, Prithviraj and Kunchako Boban, are at the peak of their careers, playing diverse characters in high-profile projects. A mistake Malayalam cinema should not forgive itself for.
In a superior movie, Nandan’s inability to deal with Aparna’s teenage tantrums would have made for a compelling reading of Kerala’s conservative family setup. In Anthikad’s universe, everyone is bound by an invisible chain, unable to rebel or imagine transgressing. When they are angry, they dim the living room lights and brood a little. The teenager shouts a line or two and slams her bedroom door shut. They reconcile the next morning and go back to living their contained lives. To a boy who has a crush on her, Aparna says that she would marry only someone her parents picked out for her. When her brother humiliates Nandan in front of a room full of people, Julie smiles and registers her protest in a polite line.
The sudden appearance of a stranger (Balaji Manohar), an accident victim, who blabbers in Kannada and sings an endless medley of Kannada film songs, feels like a breath of fresh air in the narrative in the latter half. Balaji Manohar sinks his teeth into the little material he gets and makes that final scene memorable. It might sound absurd to say affection is inbuilt in the Kannada language. But at least in Balaji’s diction, love is innate. Barring the scenes starring this little known actor-cinematographer, Makal is a pointless film that follows a bunch of people complacently going about their cosy, lacklustre lives.
This Makal review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.