Maniyarayile Ashokan is a Malayalam drama comedy movie directed by Shamzu Zayba, and starring Jacob Gregory, Anupama Parameswaran, Krishna Sankar, Shine Tom Chacko and Anu Sithara.
Marriage, children and step-moms!
Maniyarayile Ashokan follows Ashokan, who really wants to get married. However, luck hasn’t been really on his side, and thus he is unable to find someone. In comes Shyama and the two fall in love with each other. That, too, gets quashed eventually, after which he marries a plantain tree to rid of his horoscope problem. This, however, gives rise to another problem.
This movie is sort of a mixed baggage. Maniyarayile Ashokan starts off sweet and sensitive, where we empathise with Ashokan, who really just wants to find someone special in life. His cousins and friends have all found someone, but luck really isn’t on his side. When Shyama comes along, his luck seems to open up. Although her father is extremely abusive, the family agrees to their relationship after Shyama blackmails them. It’s an interesting watch. On one hand, you understand Ashokan’s sadness, on the other hand, we see how Shyama is so used to the abuse at the hands of her father.
However, the good times are short-lived when it is revealed that his horoscope is absolutely fatal. It doesn’t take long for that relationship to crumble, and the movie does well at focusing (for a while) on how problematic our Indian superstitions are. However, this is where the movie starts to go down for me.
Ashokan decides to marry a plantain tree at the behest of a priest, which, again, you sympathise with. You feel bad for his guy whose heart is at the right place. But we then, weirdly, focus on Ashokan literally falling in love with the tree. We focus on it for far too long, and it becomes too stretched.
We don’t know whether we should feel bad for him, laugh at his problem, or feel disturbed at his obsession with the tree. I, honestly, felt all three. At first, it seemed quirky, I felt bad for the guy. It then turned funny, with him going and literally speaking to the tree every day, and hugging it at odd hours. Then I was just disturbed when he called the tree’s fruits his children.
The most harrowing part of Maniyarayile Ashokan is the fact that the movie focuses on the tree plot for far too long. Not on how superstitions are bad, or how abuse is accepted as normal – on a romance between a tree and a man. I was, thus, more invested in watching Ratheesh and Rani’s love story. However, after this ludicrous plot, Ashokan finally does get married, which again picks up the movie, if only for a few minutes. It’s sweet to see his new wife and him hitting it off (and a brilliant cameo by a personal favourite actress!). I wish they had decided to cut the plant plot short and introduced more of this part.
However, the cinematography and acting are both really nice. The movie apparently takes place in a small Kerala village, which looks beautiful and it is announced aptly that there is love in its air. The lush green fields and beautiful lakes and rivers do give off an air of love and look wonderful. Acting from all the actors is really great as well, especially Anupama Parameswaran, who looks radiant as Shyama. All the female actors, specifically, look wonderful, although their character arcs seem to be non-existent.
Summing up: Maniyarayile Ashokan
I had high hopes for Maniyarayile Ashokan. A maiden production from Dulquer Salmaan’s production company seemed great, added bonus that it was releasing on Netflix. However, the movie left me disappointed. There was so much that could’ve been done with it. Even the plantain plot could’ve been taken somewhere, or they could’ve focused on the superstitious aspects. However, the movie did none of those things. Thus, even Dulquer Salmaan’s small cameo couldn’t save this messy film.
Maniyarayile Ashokan is streaming on Netflix.
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