Shylock review: A loving, Petta-style tribute to Mammootty

Shylock is an exuberant celebration of Mammootty, the star, that attempts to milk his charisma to the fullest

Published: 24th January 2020 08:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th January 2020 05:16 PM   |  A+A-

Mammootty in Shylock.

Mammootty in Shylock.

Express News Service

The hero in Shylock likes uttering ‘mass’ dialogues from popular South Indian movies, especially those starring Vijay and Rajinikanth. At one point, he even blurts out Vijay Sethupathi’s “Oru Kadhai Sollattuma” line (from Vikram Vedha). If you haven’t seen all these films, you may not get all the references and there is a chance your enjoyment might get slightly diluted. But save for one or two, these are said in the most appropriate moments, and don’t feel out of place because there’s a reasonable explanation: Mammootty’s character, Boss, nursed acting dreams long ago. He loves coming up with a movie line that is apt for the situation he is in.

Also, this is a film whose characters are closely associated with cinema. Boss is a mysterious financier who lends money to struggling movie producers. Some of them are not too keen on paying him back. And Shylock couldn’t have opened in a better location than a movie set. A production controller is worrying about the delay in the arrival of forty SUVs, because they’re minutes away from shooting the hero’s introduction scene. When the forty SUVs finally arrive, an unexpected white Rolls-Royce Phantom is among them, carrying a surprise visitor. This visitor turns the entire situation into his ‘introduction scene’.

No points for guessing who the man is. In an attempt to build him up, one of his cronies jokes that it’s the “villain’s introduction scene.” Later, the title of the movie being shot is revealed as Villadhi Villain (perhaps a callback to the director’s first movie). Boss is here to demand the money he is owed. I’m not going to describe what happens next. Needless to say, the shoot is put on hold, and someone mockingly remarks later that they could’ve shot the entire episode and used it as the hero introduction scene. It’s one of the several instances in Shylock that reveals the film’s self-aware nature. It doesn’t want us to take it seriously, and we are constantly reminded, through its characters, that we are watching a movie. 

And as I’ve already mentioned, the hero loves cinema. So it totally makes sense when he walks and fights in slow-motion. Perhaps the slow-motion doesn’t happen inside the movie’s reality. Perhaps Shylock, the movie, is functioning the way Boss imagines his world.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Mammootty in such a delightfully mischievous avatar. Boss is basically Kottayam Kunjachan on acid. One can see Shylock as the Kottayam Kunjachan sequel that we won’t get to see. There is a grin on Mammootty’s face for a major portion of the film. The last time I saw the exact same grin was in Kottayam Kunjachan. But then, Shylock also carries the DNA of some earlier ‘mass’ films of Mammootty, like Valyettan. It also reminds one of Mohanlal’s Lucifer, in terms of the repackaging of its lead star’s ‘greatest hits’ moments.

As much as I enjoyed the film, I wished the second half were as potent as the first. There is a flashback reminiscent of the one in Petta, revealing a backstory in which the characters of Rajkiran and Meena show up. The former is treated in a manner that is respectful of everything he has done before. The story detailing his character’s connection to Boss is not exactly new, but a few heartwarming moments bring back memories of early Vijayakanth films like Vaanathaippola (2000), Kannupada Poguthaiya (1999), and Chinna Gounder (1992). This familiarity is one of the reasons why the second half doesn’t pack the same punch as the first. However, the film is careful not to linger too much on the backstory and wraps it up fast to get back to the present.

As usual, Siddique has a ball playing the main villain, but his confrontation scenes with Mammootty are not too different from the ones in Chattambinaadu. I also wished they had dialled down on the slow-motion — it is jarring at times — but thankfully Ajai Vasudev doesn’t overdo it as he did in his last film, Masterpiece.

Shylock is ultimately a loving, Petta-style fanboy tribute to Mammootty. It’s an exuberant celebration of Mammootty, the star, that attempts to milk his charisma to the fullest. To give you an example, there is a scene in the film where Boss is momentarily positioned on a dance ramp after a bar fight, with the overhead lamps lighting him like a stylish model. Just moments before the fight, an old television set shows Ramya Krishnan’s Neelambari (from Padayappa) saying, “Your beauty and style haven’t left you.” It’s a remark meant for another superstar but applies to Mammootty equally.

Film: Shylock

Director: Ajai Vasudev

Cast: Mammootty, Rajkiran, Siddique, Meena

Rating: 3.5/5


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