KOCHI: ‘Munnariyippu’ opens with a top angle shot. As the credits scroll on the screen, in the background an army of ants shift a dead gecko from the screen’s left to the right. It is not clear whether the ants have killed the gecko. But they are sure about where they are heading. And they move slowly to that destination.
Every once in a while comes along a film that demands from us more than few bucks at the pay counter. It demands attention, asks for involvement. To savour it fully, it isn’t enough to watch it. ‘Munnariyippu’ is going to be one such film. For the classic that it is, ‘Munnariyippu’ is bound to remain in the hearts of those who care for the art of visual storytelling for long time to come.
In script, Unni R has carved characters that are deep and sound natural. Anjali Arakkal (Aparna Gopinath), a freelance journalist, met C R Raghavan (Mammootty) while interacting with retiring jail superintendent (Nedumudi Venu). She came to ghost write the officer’s autobiography, but gets interested in Raghavan’s life story.
He becomes a mystery for Anjali. He was tried for killing his wife and the daughter of his employee. But he claims innocence. Even after serving 20 years. He is reluctant to leave the jail. His writings reflect an heightened sensitivity, “like Haiku, like Buddhist teachings”. The film is a mediation on Raghavan’s existence. “There is a fourth lion in the national emblem. Truth is that fourth lion, hidden,” says Raghavan once. This is true of himself: he is a prisoner, a writer, a philosopher; but the truth about himself is hidden- until the climax.
Sounds like Joseph K in mundu? (does anyone read Kafka anymore? When asked ‘who is Kafka’ a journalist in the movie guessed ‘he is African.’ He is Czech, by the way) Well, pretty much yes. References about existentialism and individual freedom is sprinkled all over the movie. Raghavan cares about freedom and responsibility like an existential individual. He can behave genuinely or deceptively, for his free will. And when his freedom is infringed, he acts - whether in your house or in Cuba, if there is revolution, blood will spill, he explains.
Anjali takes him in custody. She want him to write a book. But Raghavan procrastinates, and she face the music from a corporate publisher. Only at the climax, where at once everything falls squarely, Ragahavan reveals himself. Like a jigsaw puzzle that’s been solved.
Venu (director and cinematographer) and Bina Paul (editor) hves given the movie a classy touch. The ascends and descends of violin by Bijipal tunes the turbulence in the movie. Any journalist could easily relate with Aparna’s acting- especially the smile when one of the editors say she’ll get a national byline. The real free bird is Mammootty, proving that when given an opportunity for a great walk-on performance he can essay it to perfection. He reveals the McGuffey of the movie just in a smile in the climax.
‘Munnariyippu’ would stay with you even after you leave theatres. We would like to replay it in our heads with the climax’s discovery. The title itself was ‘Warning’. The swarm of ants in the opening credits had shown death and decisive movement. You shouldn’t have waited for the top angle at the end to predict the climax. They had warned you in the beginning itself.