Director: Jis Joy
Cast: Kunchakko Boban, Siddique, Anarkali Nazar, KPAC Lalitha, Vinay Forrt
In director Jis Joy’s films, conflicts in the narratives are resolved using a saccharine-coated placebo. All it takes for complex problems to disappear is a two-minute spiel on the topic “How to stop being sad and succeed in life” delivered by a venerable relative or a stranger posing like a philosopher. While there is no conclusive evidence, one could suspect that the director does this because real-world solutions require powerful and insightful writing and much more superior filmmaking.
Mohankumar Fans, his fourth and the clumsiest film, has a central premise that isn’t strong enough to hold a feature-length movie. Mohan Kumar (Siddique), a former superstar, returns to the limelight after 30 years with an arthouse film that garners great reviews. The man is disheartened when the film, despite its commercial success, is removed from the theatres to accommodate more high-profile entertainers. That is when his friends and family begin a National Award buzz which might, for those who aren’t familiar with Jis Joy’s tacky feel-good dramas, sound like a practical joke.
The film, written by Jis Joy based on Bobby-Sanjay’s story, is not interested in delineating its protagonist, Mohan Kumar. Other than overblown lines like “he is a bonafide star!” and “he is a good man!” recited in regular intervals by various sub-characters, we do not see why the man deserves the attention the film pays him. We do not know what kind of actor he used to be. It is not clear why his comeback to the film industry was long-delayed. He isn’t an underdog or a fallen star erred by the film industry. Mohan Kumar has a seemingly good life ﹣a sprawling house that resembles an ad film set, a beautiful daughter who is his greatest cheerleader and a group of friends and subordinates who would do anything for him.
Mohan Kumar Fans doesn’t display any understanding of the film industry it sets itself around. In a scene, a set of senior members of the film industry, who claims to have been part of Malayalam cinema’s golden years, huddle around a table and wonder how to furnish an application for a national award. An arthouse film’s failure to sustain its theatrical run, especially in a busy Christmas week when there is a gush of mainstream releases in the waiting, is an occurrence so common that it should not come as a surprise to anyone who understands the working of the film industry. Jis Joy exaggerates the emotional consequence of the incident and creates a long-winded soppy episode.
The film is shot like a shoddy soap opera, with the camera plainly capturing everything written in the script. Every frame is murkily lit and excessively packaged. Sometimes a mere raise of an eyebrow initiates a piece of upbeat music. There are several pointless supporting characters, like the one played by Kunchakko Boban. The actor is Krishnanunni, an aspiring playback singer and a part-time chauffeur who becomes the closest confidante of Mohan Kumar within a short period. When he is not performing mediocre songs or dancing to abominable tracks in a music reality show, Krishnanunni drives Mohan Kumar around and harps on about the power of positive thinking like a self-help guru. KPAC Lalitha plays Krishnanunni’s aunt who, for no real reason, recites to his nephew cheesy motivational lines. In a different and better film, Krishnanunni’s relationship with Mohan Kumar would have been a pivotal plot track. Here, it is non-existent.
Jis Joy’s barely cinematic yet commercially successful films endorse the sentiments of a large, apolitical audience that believes the real function of art is to connect to the lowest common denominator. Formally resembling small-screen ad films or teleserials, these films are diagonally opposite to the new, rapidly evolving Malayalam cinema. He self-plagiarises and narrates apolitical stories which are far-removed from the socio-political realities of the space where they take place. His characters live in majestic ancestral houses and display cliched signs of bygone prosperity like an ambassador car. In Sunday Holiday and Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, he placed an empowered woman in the foreground and played to a sexist gallery in the background. In Mohan Kumar Fans, a divisionist caste-based organisation makes an appearance twice, like a brand carefully placed inside a movie frame as part of its marketing programme.
Slight, dull and sans any cinematic merit, Mohan Kumar Fans is a definite sign that Jis Joy has exhausted his vault.
The Mohan Kumar Fans review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.