A little while into Uncle, directed by Girish Damodar and written by Joy Mathew, you are likely to start feeling the jerks. You might wonder what this film is really about. It starts off as an intriguing road thriller, and then oscillates unevenly from one genre to another, stitching together lacklustre scenes, and concludes in climatic portion where it assumes a self-righteous tone that only adds to the damage already done. The characters look half-done, and situations are incoherent to hold the film together.
The film opens to a scene where Sruthi (Karthika Muraleedharan), a young girl stranded in a Tamil Nadu city that’s burning in a student protest, bumps into a man, Krishna Kumar (Mammootty), a friend of her father, who offers her a ride back home that is over six hours away. The girl gladly hops into his SUV, but her father (Joy Mathew) is worried because Krishna Kumar is an infamous Casanova who likes to hook up with many women and brag about it in the friend circles. There are liquor bottles in the backseat, and we get shots of Krishna Kumar throwing dubious glances at Sruthi occasionally. The film quickly gets down to solving the much hackneyed puzzle: Is this man a hero or a villain?
But it is obviously, a non-question. The film suffers from the essential problem that many Mammootty films do. It ridiculously gives in to the fanfare around the actor’s on-screen charisma. You could say that in Uncle, the actor is playing his age, a middle-aged man who has some grey strands on his head. But Krishna Kumar, has a get-up and body-language that might remind you of the man he plays in the brand commercial of South Indian Bank. He looks prim and salon-perfect, so much so that he looks more holy than human.
The film incessantly whispers into our ears that this man could be dangerous, his antics are suspicious, and that he could hurt Sruthi. But it’s laughably untrue because there is not even a drop of grey in the man’s perfectly white character which turns whiter as the film proceeds. He is not a villain, but several ideals rolled into one handsome man.
It’s hard to say where the film’s focus lies on. For the most of the time, it’s character-driven, about Krishna Kumar and his enigmatic personality. Over the road trip, Sruthi and the audience unravel more and more details about the double life that he leads. To his friends and acquaintances, he is a rich and hip middle-aged bachelor who hooks up with many women, travels around, and lives life to the fullest. But it turns out that there is another side to him that only a few people get to know of. The film teases us with many tidbits of this incredible double life. It is like discovering that your friend, a high-flying businessman who loves expensive cars, is also a comrade with a bleeding heart. Would you laugh at this absurd turn of events, or give him a Red Salute?
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do because the film is, ultimately, not about Krishna Kumar, but issues that are more universal – women and morality. The mood changes, and bafflingly enough, Krishna Kumar in the latter half of the film, is a man far different from what you had been watching till then. Suddenly, he becomes a hapless victim who fall prey to moral hypocrisy of the society. The structure of the film is uncannily similar to that of Ranjith’s Kaiyyoppu, again a movie starring Mammootty. Kaiyyoppu revolved around a man – a writer with a kind and romantic heart – till it’s final scene, and then, changes tracks to be a different kind of film, a clumsy social commentary on terrorism.
The girl in Uncle is a one-note character – a pretty vivacious thing who likes to laugh a lot. Every now and then, the film cuts to a bunch of friends of Krishna Kumar and the girl’s father, in their evening booze party, generously gossiping about women, and lamenting their own uneventful sex life. Krishna Kumar is a hero, they say, for he ‘scores’ women and then dumps them rather neatly before they turn into a ‘burden’. In a different movie, these scenes might add to story-telling, but in Uncle, scenes as these come across as serious hiccups for they change the entire tone of the film. They are staged like lighter comic moments. How could one slam the society’s perverted mindset on one hand, and crack jokes about high-class men equating every women to sex objects on the other hand? The problem lies in the film’s perspective. It is terribly inconsistent.
Karthika Muraleedharan has an innate charm that she effortlessly brings to the screen. She doesn’t pout, or pull a puppy face. Effervescence comes naturally for her. Her relaxed self is a stark contrast to Mammootty’s visibly stiff body-language. There are a bunch of supporting characters who barely cast an impression, mostly because their roles are too patchily written to be relevant to the plot.
Uncle is a forgettable film that fails at being entertaining as much as it does at being relevant.