Film: The Gambler
Director: Tom Emmatty
Cast: Anson Paul, Dayyana Hameed, Innocent
The Gambler is yet another victim of confused and misleading promotions. When the film was first announced, it was touted as “Malayalam cinema’s first superhero film”. We were also told that it’s meant to be an informative film. Having seen it, I can say that it is neither.
The film actually feels like a long commercial trying to sell a product shown in its end credits: an online game designed for kids struggling to learn English alphabets. But what has the game got to do with the titular superhero ‘IO Man’ (whose name is never mentioned)? He just shows up in two short dream sequences which, granted, are visually appealing. He is the alter ego of Anson (Anson Paul) as imagined by his seven-year-old son.
In real life, Anson is struggling to get clients for his marketing firm so that he can properly take care of his son and wife (Dayyana Hameed). One day, things turn really sour when an ally gets him involved in an illicit deal. I’m not even going into the details, as we have already seen this happen in multiple films before. I would like to point out some other things though.
Let’s start with the game. Not once do we see its mechanism. We are simply shown that Anson’s son is into card games. But how does he learn the alphabets? That part is conveniently skipped and one fine day, we see him writing on the blackboard ‘floccinaucinihilipilification’ — a word introduced to social media by Shashi Tharoor. I find it interesting that the teacher doesn’t mention Tharoor’s name in that scene. Anyway, my point is, if one is making an ‘educational’ film, there should be something in it to warrant that tag. Instead, we only hear a word or two.
The other word is ‘naysayer’, used by Anson to describe his own cynical father Laser, who sits around all day playing card games. Laser is played by popular Facebook personality Vinod Narayan a.k.a Ballatha Pahayan. I religiously follow Vinod’s channel and find him to be a warm, intelligent and hilarious man, but he made his debut in the wrong film. His casting seems more like a marketing ploy than anything else, given his massive following. He doesn’t have much to do, and it’s a pity.
Though the film’s second half carries more energy than the first, it simply isn’t enough to get us engaged. We do get a couple of genuinely tension-inducing moments but since every character looks disinterested, nothing fails to make an impact.
With the exception of Innocent, Salim Kumar, and the underrated Vijaykumar, everyone displays the same “I just woke up” expression throughout the film. Anson is put through one trying situation after another, but there is nothing ‘inspiring’ about the way he deals with every situation. He is simply trying to... survive. Perhaps there is something ‘heroic’ in that? Is that what the film is trying to convey? Could be. But it’s not “Malayalam cinema’s first superhero film”.
Director: Tom Emmatty