It is still Wednesday but the new ‘weekend’ releases have started pouring in already! But no complaints here, we are loving every minute of it! With that I finished watching the new Malayalam film Malikappuram which is streaming on Hotstar. It does center the temple Sabarimala which has always been in the news. The first reference of it that I did find in a film was the brilliant Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen wherein the protagonist wasn’t allowed to enter the temple premises. A 2018 court judgement had allowed even females to enter the temple premises which was met with a solid dissentment from the temple authorities(as per Wikipedia).
The point which I want to highlight is that the topic itself is controversial. So I was curious to see what the film Malikappuram had to offer, a film that supposedly did seem like a sweet little tale about a young girl and her father. Given that it is a Malayalam film, my expectations were high! So then does Malikappuram manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Malikappuram(a reference to the Goddess whose temple is made within Sabarimala for her love for Lord Ayyappa) follows the story of a young girl wishing to visit the temple of Sabarimala for the longest time. One day, a young man comes into her life to help her complete the journey. Who is he? The story here is quite sweet and heartwarming, throwing light on some of the religious beliefs while steering away from controversies. The screenplay standing at a shade of less than 2 hours does make for a brisk watch but a meaningful one too.
Usually you are privy to some lovely world buildings in various Malayalam films and Malikappuram is not any different. You are briefly given the history of Lord Ayyappa and Malikappuram before commencing with the story. You are introduced to the young protagonist who shares a beautiful bond with her father, who is always seen to be smiling in front of his daughter despite being immersed in a mountain of debt. Their relationship is warm and fuzzy so much so that you can half-expect that something might go wrong! Elsewhere, the protagonist is friends with her neighbour and their scenes together in the school make for some hilarious and nostalgic moments. This until tragedy strikes leading to a couple of very emotional scenes!
The plot here might be wafer-thin but it is the screenplay featuring some very well etched out characters that keeps the boat sailing. The proceedings have a feel good vibe to the drama and are engrossing. While the entire first half is restricted to a buildup, the second half gathers steam and makes for a slightly more eventful drama. The emotion that does drive this drama is faith and innocence. I have not visited Sabarimala and through this film I was able to. The second half is primarily a road movie with a tinge of religious belief through the lens of a character.
There are a couple of shortcomings too here. For one, the exaggerated fight sequence did not sit right and stuck out like a sore thumb. Also, while the twist at the end was a good one, the end was simplistic and did feel almost abrupt. I wonder if it could have been fleshed out a little further? But the messaging at the end was something that I was very impressed by. The concept of God can be felt in certain humans who are brought in our lives to help us out at difficult phases. And we get what we seek, meaning if we do have faith then the most difficult of situations will bring us helpers in some form or the other. Beautiful! Overall, the screenplay is well written and has its heart in the right place.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are well written and make for a profound impact. The music and BGM blend very well with the drama and continue to enhance that warm vibe that is prevalent throughout. The cinematography is good as is the editing which is very crisp. Director Vishnu Sasi Shankar does manage to impress here. His main accomplishment was unfolding the drama through the lens of the child which is filled with faith and innocence. And this simplicity does translate so well onscreen. His direction is pretty good here, perhaps falterly briefly towards the end.
The performances are excellent here. Manoj K Jayan as Haneef shines in an extended cameo towards the end. Saiju Kurup as Ajayan is so endearing and sincere that the demise of his character does fill you up with multiple emotions. Alphy Panjikaran and Ramesh Pisharody are first rate and have their moments to shine. Unni Mukundan as Ayyappan is brilliant and his character has such a disarming smile that will put a smile on your face. The two children Devanandha and Abhilash are outstanding and so heartwarming with the performances. Their innocence is reflected so well throughout the film and it was lovely to see them together onscreen.
Despite a minor wobble at the end, Malikappuram is a heartwarming tale of religious beliefs and faith that makes for a pleasant watch. Available on Hotstar.