Film: Uncle; Direction: Girish Damodar; Cast: Mammootty, Karthika Muralidharan, Joy Mathew, Muthumani
As a film critic the last thing you want to do after watching a film of an actor you greatly admire is write a negative review for it. But sometimes a film leaves such a bad aftertaste that you have no option but to be honest about what you just saw.
This was the case with my review of Mammootty's Parole, which was released a few weeks back.
And so, before entering the theatre to watch Uncle, I was badly hoping that this isn't another dud just like it. Imagine my relief when that wish finally came true. I'm happy to report that Uncle is not only good, but also it's Mammootty's best film since 2014's Munnariyippu. We finally have a Mammootty film that effectively manages to remove the bad aftertaste left behind by his recent films.
Here at last is a character that perfectly suits both Mammootty's personality and age; a role that's tailor-made for him. His Krishna Kumar is a rich and dashing middle-aged divorcee who drives a Mercedes SUV (which he is attached to more than anything else in his life), and was known to be something of a playboy in his college days (his name being Krishna, he doesn't need a nickname). Even though we are told he is so and so, we can still sense a small aura of mystery around him.
Written by actor-screenwriter Joy Mathew, the script doesn't waste any time setting up the story or introducing Mammootty's character. In fact, he appears right after the opening credits, picking up a young girl Shruthi (Karthika Muralidharan) who is looking for a ride after her college is shut down on account of a major strike. Incidentally, Shruthi knows Krishna: he is a close buddy of her dad's. The whole film then becomes a long road trip which takes place over the course of half a day.
But not all the scenes are confined to the interiors of Krishna's SUV. The film shifts between the Krishna-Shruthi conversations, the home of Shruthi's concerned parents (played wonderfully by Joy Mathew and Muthumani) and the home of Krishna's buddies (who sing paeans to his remarkable ability of ensnaring beautiful women even at this age). And it's the last two elements that turn the film into something of a Hitchcockian suspense drama (Krishna slightly evokes Joseph Cotten from Shadow of a Doubt).
The testimonials from Krishna's friends as well as the tiny flashbacks giving you an idea of his glowing charisma are enough to plant the seeds of doubt in your mind. And once you get to the moderately intense ending, you know the film has succeeded because you've been turned into another suspecting member of the supporting cast. And just like he did in Munnariyippu, Mammootty once again succeeds in conveying his character's ambiguity with his subtle tics and eye movements. In the middle of all this is a small sub-plot involving a man waiting for his wife to deliver their first child. Though it may seem insignificant at first, it makes more sense in the final act.
Uncle is a film that came along at the right time. It addresses an issue that is relevant in this day and age, with its story filtered through the prism of the "me too" movement and the multiple instances of sexual violence that are being reported every single day. And it fearlessly calls out the hypocrisies of today's self-appointed guardians of morality.