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Old 11-03-2017, 02:10 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Villain-Review

Theater: Mall of the Emirates, 8:05 pm
Status: Housefull

Spoilers ahead...


Preamble

In 2012, when Mohanlal had sunk to the lowest depths after Casanova's release, B Unnikrishnan came up with Grandmaster, a movie which showcased a different Mohanlal, someone bumbling and hesitant and lazy, a mature man who separated from his wife, once an excellent officer, just a shadow of his former self. This was a refreshing change from his earlier characters in previous years, and a turning point for Mohanlal the actor. If Mohanlal is still relevant today, much of the credit has to go to Chandrasekhar in Grandmaster...

Come 2017, Mohanlal has been faced with a similar crisis. His BO power is still mostly intact, but one felt that he was not getting enough challenging characters again. It had been a while since the actor in Mohanlal had emerged more than the star. And thus, here is B Unnikrishnan again, with Villain!

Over the ensuing five years, Malayalam cinema has seen a revolution with new directors and stars, and fresh stories which have sort of brought back the glory of the 1980s. However, I have been worried about the 'feel-good' nature of recent movies, with the young superstars (Dulquar, Nivin) repeating themselves and not leaving their comfort zone-though Prithviraj is making some path breaking movies. Meanwhile in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, movies such as Dhruvangal Pathinaaru, Vikram Vedha and Thani Oruvan have challenged the established narratives of a thriller. Last year, Mohanlal's Oppam, though inherently flawed, was a positive change with its slasher genre and the protagonist's terrific performance as a blind man. I also enjoyed Rajesh Pillai's Vettah thoroughly. Now, again, with Villain, Unnikrishnan and Mohanlal, have come up with a film relevant and different and possibly even a film which is ahead of its time.

Storyline

We have here Mathew Manjooran, a character who has not let go of the passing of his wife and daughter, called upon to investigate a series of murders on the last day of his service. Unlike many other thriller films, we (and Mathew) know who the murderers are and how the murders were committed. But what makes Villain so unique is that the protagonist, instead of going on a revenge killing spree, as 90% of Indian films would do, is instead trying to make peace with himself and the antagonists, and go on his merry way. Another reason why Villain is an interesting film is that we even suspect Mathew for a while for the involvement in the murders! The third thing which makes Villain stand out is that Mathew is a version of Batman with his principles and morals (less the fancy gadgets) and his wife, though absent through most parts of the film, is driving the rationale for his actions. And Batman is the ultimate grey superhero...So when Mathew meets with the murderer, Shaktivel Palaniswamy, what stands out more than their final fight is the conversations the two individuals have about their motivations for their actions.

A tale of two halves

The first half is a slow paced affair, with a rather boring investigation, elongated scenes and Shakespearean dialogues (though aptly rendered by Lal) and an unnecessary song (Angakale). What stands out, though is the well-picturised Kandittum Kandittum and a James Bondish title sequence aptly matching with 'Pathiye Nee'. However, the story does not move forward and the interval does not bring us any joy. Also, what is somewhat a letdown is that the clean shaven Mohanlal does not quite have the impact on screen that I had wished for having seen the trailers and stills.

Post the second half, the movie shifts gears intriguingly. Not that the investigation per se becomes more interesting, but we slowly begin to realise the motives for the primary characters, the final scenes between Lal and Manju are so heart-rendering, the two fight scenes are terrifically picturised, and the morals and message of the film really comes to light. I found the climax showdown between Lal and Vishal packed a real emotional and powerful punch. And though it was not surprising that certain characters ended up being on the 'wrong' side of the law, this nevertheless enhances the film's message and rationale.

Performances

The movie has an elaborate cast, some justified, some wasted, some poor. The standouts from the supporting cast are Chemban Vinod Jose and Vishal, who has put in a controlled performance but has the right menacing looks. Hansika, the character who played Felix and even Siddique dissapoint. However, three characters' performances are particularly memorable.

Rashi Khanna

It's so annoying to see how women police officers are caricatures in many films, but Rashi's characterisation is a welcome change. She is intelligent, thoughtful and inquisitive, and not seen as eye-candy for the other artists and her controlled and confident role should be an earmark for filmmakers to follow in future films.

Manju Warrier

She has tried to revive her career with a series of important and message driven films. But to choose a character confined to a hospital bed for most of her screen time takes guts at this stage of her career. Her combination scenes with Lal elevate the film considerably and she should be Lal's on-screen partner for future movies. They act with such grace, naturality and elegance together.

Mohanlal

What a performance it was! The subtleties of the performance are worth mentioning, and the man acts with his eyes, his eyebrows, his fingers. He wails when a tragedy consumes him and when he performs the ultimate mercy act, there is a close up where he smiles while tears fall down his face. You know Lal is in full form when the fight scenes are a highlight, and here, we see three different versions, the stylish act in the first half, the rage in the second, and the Grandmaster like, reluctant fight in the last. The dialogue delivery is powerful yet full of grace. Its such a delight that finally, we have a memorable character to add to the collection. And the credit should go to the director for presenting him as a mature man, talking like a 57 year old (phew!), well dressed and with appropriate shades of grey. His intro is particularly noteworthy.

Technical aspects and music

The movie is driven by some terrific visuals, enhanced by the 8K projection, and the quality sound design, overhead shots, and focus on the individual characters stands out. Even Sushin Shyam's background score stands out, without being overboard, there are themes for the different characters, and each fight scene has distinctly different music.

Overall

Villain is a welcome eye-opener. A film which directors and scriptwriters can have a look at, not because it's perfectly executed (far from it!) but due to the message that we do not have to always take the well-trodden path. It is a fascinating character study which shows that if we look at different perspectives and angles, a character who commits a hateful crime, may actually be on the same side of the law as the flawed law enforcement officer. This is probably going to be something unusual to digest for the movie-going audience. But as Commissioner Gordon would say, "Villain is not the movie that we deserve, but the movie we need right now."

Verdict: Intriguing
Rating: 3.5/5

PS: For another review of the film, do visit Villain | Movies of the Soul: Best of Cinema

PPS: Now I can read Intexequa's and Malayalee's spoiler reviews in peace
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Old 11-03-2017, 02:21 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Aravind,

As a star & as an actor, I don't think Lalettan went through his worst phase after the Casanovva debacle...It was a huge disappointment from a hugely hyped cinema from a star who gave 100% success @ box office in 2011. I still reckon his worst phase was post-Onnaman until Udayanaanu Thaaram!!
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Old 11-03-2017, 02:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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thanks bhai..gud one
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Old 11-03-2017, 03:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks buddy ..
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Old 11-03-2017, 04:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks Aravind...Ennatheyum pole nalla review.
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by intexaqua View Post
Aravind,

As a star & as an actor, I don't think Lalettan went through his worst phase after the Casanovva debacle...It was a huge disappointment from a hugely hyped cinema from a star who gave 100% success @ box office in 2011. I still reckon his worst phase was post-Onnaman until Udayanaanu Thaaram!!
From a BO point of view, yes, Mohanlal had a great run in 2011 but the films, apart from Pranayam were not memorable IMO. I only watched 2 films during 2010-11 period in the theater prior to Grandmaster, one being Shikhar and the other being AOPMK, both were somewhat average fares at best. Thus I felt Grandmaster was a turning point though Drishyam was where Lal really reached the pinnacle.

Ive been unduly harsh on him post MVT, as after all, 1971 BB followed 3 blockbusters and 1 in Telugu, in a row. But from an acting standpoint, Mathew Manjooran is one of my favourite Mohanlal characters of the decade so far....
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:55 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anukutty View Post
Thanks Aravind...Ennatheyum pole nalla review.
Thanks so much...
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Old 11-03-2017, 11:55 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
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Thanks buddy ..
Welcome Chunku, Sree...
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Old 11-04-2017, 12:46 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Good Review. Thank you dear friend
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Old 11-04-2017, 05:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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excellent review bhai.
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