Prajesh Sen’s new feature reminded me of the problem that Will Smith’s character in Hitch had. Those familiar with that film should remember how he played that relationship expert who couldn’t figure out how to sort his own love problems.
He realised that whatever he had learnt from his textbook should be dumped into the dustbin. He had to unlearn everything he had learned. Jayasurya’s character in Meri Awas Suno, a radio jockey named RJ Shankar, is no relationship expert, but he undergoes a more extreme version of the unlearning process. A man who uplifts others through his pearls of wisdom, Shankar finds himself unable to empower himself at a crucial juncture in his life.
We are talking about someone who, at one point, saves a suicidal girl with his reassuring voice. His words brought hope to this lonely child who yearned for her mother’s company but couldn’t get it because the latter is an extremely busy paediatrician who fixes other kids’ health issues but not her own daughter’s. There too, is a person who can’t practice what she preaches. I could connect strongly to Meri Awas Suno because writer-director Prajesh Sen brings up thoughts that have often popped up in my head. Those working in the entertainment industry (or any art field, for that matter) should find something to take away from Meri Awaas Suno. Well, anyone whose profession requires them to be physically fit should find the core idea of Meri Awas Suno significantly affecting.
Currently, two filmmakers in contemporary Malayalam cinema are great at extracting the best out of the actor in Jayasurya: Ranjith Sankar and Prajesh Sen. Last time we saw Jayasurya, he was a debt-ridden man battling the after-effects of COVID in Sunny. That role required him to appear sufficiently humiliated and project severe emotional crisis. In Meri Awas Suno, he does the same, albeit in a different form, and succeeds at it. Picture a radio jockey whose voice is his identity, losing it one day. (He smokes a lot, and you can even look at this film as an anti-smoking tale, even though it dwells only on the after-effects. Yes, it’s scary, alright.) Jayasurya previously played a man with speech issues in Su... Su... Sudhi Vathmeekam. But Meri Awas Suno deals with a more serious problem than stammering: his larynx gets taken out. Thankfully, Prajesh keeps things from getting too dark, and the credit for that should go to a female character, Dr Reshmi (Manju Warrier), an activist and speech therapist.
One of Shankar’s notable qualities is he is not one to reveal his face on social media. He is old school when it comes to things like that. He prefers to retain the mystery that was characteristic of the old masters. This quality becomes relevant in a later scene when Dr Reshmi doesn’t recognise him when he shows up at the door. She plays him back a recording of one of his earlier ‘motivational’ lines, and he is hurt. He is unable to tell her that’s him. It’s a moment of great embarrassment. She tells him he has to accept that he won’t be able to talk anymore. Is that the final verdict? The rest of the film pursues an answer to this. Expect to shed a tear or two (or three).
Meri Awas Suno sees Prajesh Sen revisiting themes he had explored before in Captain and Vellam. Once again, he provides a lot of space for his principal female leads to shine. We get Sshivada delivering one of her finest performances as the journalist wife struggling to rescue her mute husband from the deep abyss he is in and deal with Reshmi’s influence on him. I teared up in one scene where Jayasurya uses Sshivada’s hands to suggest that she should put him out of his misery if she continues to ignore him, a ‘helpful’ tactic that Dr Reshmi suggested to get him to do something extraordinary again. Manju Warrier impresses with a character whose attitude alternates between bluntness and sweetness. She gets a nice intro scene in which she delivers a ‘liberation’ speech at a women’s college, which invites, naturally, frowns from the nuns running the institution. After this, she gets into her jeep and drives off like a mass hero (without the slo-mo, thankfully).
Meri Awas Suno is not one of those films that you watch to discuss the craft. I measure such films by their ability to provide spiritual nourishment. One can easily dismiss them as ‘motivational’ films, but as long as they’re made with a certain degree of restraint, I say, why not? An occasional mood-lifter after a marathon of dark films helps.
Film: Meri Awas Suno
Director: Prajesh Sen
Cast: Jayasurya, Manju Warrier, Sshivada, Johny Antony