Cast: Manju Warrier, Murali Gopy, Anoop Menon
Hers is a life lived unapologetically. Kamala Das aka Madhavikutty whipped up a storm in our consciousness with her profound writings, laying her life bare for us to dissect. And, dissect we did, while revelling in the world she constructed.
But, what might have been hidden in that inimitable persona? Pain? Longing? Or a fervid emotional turmoil that only she could have explained?
When director Kamal tries to delve deep into her turbulent life seeking an answer, what we get is a well-crafted venture, where Malayalam's iconic writer comes beautifully alive.
In Aami, there is nothing new, nothing we haven't read in "Ente Kadha", but the visual interpretation of Kamala Das' life, where a fine line divides fantasy and reality, is fresh.
Kamal is indeed devoted to the writer in her biopic. In many parts, he treats her with the same devotion Kamala showered on Lord Krishna. Her childhood days at Punnayoorkulam, her growing up years in Calcutta, emotional conflicts and even manifestation of love have been captured in a graceful visual language.
And no mean task that is, for Kamala's life is something we wallowed in. We are familiar with her world, and sculpting out Aami from her myriad works is indeed Kamal's brilliance.
Aami is very much inspired by "Ente Kadha". It begins at Punnayoorkulam where we seem little Kamala's blossoming like the 'Neermathalam flower in her courtyard. The narrative moves slowly but smoothly, easing into her first romantic experience, and then to her life with Madhava Das, the progression happens naturally like growing up. Kamala's emotional conflicts mature the writer in her, whilst she earns the tag of a celebrated writer.
Perhaps, the real challenge in Aami must have been the episode of her religious conversion, something that dominated the writer's later years. Kamal manages to recreate the turmoil that ensued, but treads the path safely. He does narrate Kamala's love for Akbar Ali, but through her words that religion is just a garb and her Krishnan has only been renamed as the prophet, the director keeps feathers unruffled.
Whether Aami is a faithful interpretation is a subject for another day, but Kamal's insistence on painting her in divine light is evident here. He sticks to "Ente Kadha" and never even attempts for a different take. Somewhere, we sense a refusal to touch upon her deep thoughts, especially regarding her conversion.
All those debates on casting Manju Warrier can be rested. For, she does a great work, sinking her teeth into the character. If you can overlook the cakey makeup, Manju is very much Kamala Das. And, much of Aami's make-believe world is cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan's brilliance. His camera takes us to the picturesque Punnayoorkulam and dingy streets of Kolkata, keeping us hooked there. Anoop Menon as Anwar Ali does a great job while Murali Gopi enacts Madhava Das with conviction.
Aami is a justifiable biopic, but the issue is that it only reaffirms the Kamala Das we know. For those who expected a daring take on the life of rebellious and brilliant Kamala, Aami may not satisfy you.