How Old are You?
Abhishek K. Venkitaraman
Have you ever wondered about what kind of life your mother had before she had you and became busy in bringing you up? Nurturing your talents, she might have never complained about it. How old are you forces you to think about things like these when you watch it. This movie marks Manju Warrier’s return to the silver screen after 14 years. Malayalam cinema has always been ahead of its times, and especially women centric Malayalam cinema assures of powerful performances and this movie is a fine example of that. The movie was a major commercial success when it released and won 2 Kerala State film awards.
Story & screenplay
Nirupama Rajeev(Manju Warrier) is a 36 year old woman who works as a clerk in Revenue office. Her husband Rajeev Narayanan(Kunchacko Boban) works in Aakashvani and is very ambitious, and trying to immigrate to Ireland. Nirupama can’t accompany him as her application is turned down by all Irish companies. There is nothing interesting about her life, she leads a normal, fulfilled life but craves for a change, trying to fulfill her husband’s and daughter’s expectations as well. One fateful day, she is summoned by the IG office informing her that the President of India would like to have a conversation with her, over a question which her daughter asked the President in her school, during his visit. As fate would have it, the meeting turns out to be a disaster as Nirupama faints in front of the President and becomes a laughingstock on social media fueled by memes. What ensues is the story of a woman who completely transforms herself and rediscovers her hidden talent and power. The story is strong, and the screenplay is top notch and well knit. The movie is paced well and allows you to immerse yourself fully into Nirupama’s life.
Direction & Cinematography
Rosshan Andrews tells a simple tale of a woman who is saddened by her circumstances and just craves for some respect and acceptance. This is not a masterpiece by any means but it’s a slice of life and stories like these deserve to be told. You might see shades of English Vinglish in some parts, but the premise is totally different. The director successfully extracts a fine performance from an actress like Manju Warrier who was missed over the years by the Malayalam audience. The movie is studded with fine moments. There is a scene where Nirupama visits an old woman who she meets every day on the bus, Nirupama doesn’t know her name yet when she comes to know that the woman is sick, Nirupama turns up at her house. The old woman is filled with tears and gratitude and so are we, the audience. In another scene, where Rajeev is yelling on Nirupama for a petty reason, she reminds him that she too, has desires and dreams. These small moments make this movie a fine watch.
Manju Warrier is the lifeline of this movie. Her transition from a depressed, lazy and insecure woman to a brilliant and confident person is almost seamless and you don’t even notice it. What a character arc! Manju Warrier retains a special humor in the most serious scenes. The supporting cast do their best with the material provided to them.
Next time you yell on your mom, just think that she had a life before she had you. How many times have we looked back and thought about how different our mother’s lives would have been had it not been for us. They might have had different ambitions than what life handed them and what circumstances shaped for them. The movie has several important themes in its narrative. A woman craving for respect and acceptance from her family members, and constantly put to test by a demanding husband and daughter, even then she doesn’t break, she thinks of ways to overcome the situation. That’s real strength. In a total contrast to Nirupama, we meet her best friend from college times, Susan David(Kaniha), who is a successful businesswoman now. Nirupama finds her strength in her long-lost friendship with Susan, who inspires her to be more than just a wife and a mother. Nirupama has a spare time hobby of cultivating a terrace garden in which she grows her own vegetables. Her spare time hobby does wonders for her and inspires a whole society to change. Nirupama is not afraid to express her opinion. Initially her husband and daughter leave her and go to Ireland and later her husband asks her to drop everything and join him there, Nirupama flatly refuses and tells her husband that her daughter will understand. Society always expects a woman to make sacrifices. Here, a woman, wounded by circumstances is only trying to find some respect and a place where she belongs. One quote by Nirupama would force you to think about suffocating societal norms “Who decides the expiry date of a woman’s dreams?”. Really, who decides when a woman must stop living her life? And moreover, who has the right? Nobody. The movie is also a commentary on how social media can affect someone badly and how things can spiral out of control. For you, it’s a meme, for someone else, it might be a blow to their confidence and self-esteem. Vikrithi by Emcy Joseph is another movie which is made on this theme. Social media can be a boon if used responsibly or it can be a curse if you don’t pay attention. Strangely, it is this social media which first destroys Nirupama and then gives her confidence to respond aptly to this sick society. Environmentalism as a theme is used to teach us a lesson about pesticides as well as the benefits of growing one’s own food. All these themes are spun brilliantly into this delightful movie and gives you so much to love. How Old are You might not be a masterpiece but then, we need stories like these in the mainstream.
Disclaimer: The above review solely illustrates the views of the writer.