Madhura Manohara Moham is a film with zero finesse, neither in terms of storytelling nor filmmaking. I almost thought of walking out during the interval because many of the scenes in the first half didn’t work for me. The jokes, except those of Althaf Salim, are unfunny, and the character interactions, except a few, are largely lifeless. Making things worse is the music, which kept intruding in almost every scene. It’s as though the makers don’t trust the audience to figure out the tone. This is a film that exhibits confusion with regard to tonal consistency for at least the first hour. It’s only when you get closer to the interval that the film gets slightly... interesting. And that’s when I decided not to walk out because I was beginning to get slightly... curious.
The primary focus of Madhura Manohara Moham is an upper-caste Hindu family that comprises the matriarch Usha (Bindu Panicker), her children Manu (Sharafudheen), Meera (Rajisha Vijayan), and a younger daughter. The picture is simple. It’s a temple-going family living in a tharavadu with a couple of cows. And there’s another upper-caste Hindu family with Vijayaraghavan as the patriarch, Indrasena Kurup, with a hyperactive daughter Salabha (Arsha Baiju), who is romantically involved with Manu. Here, too, the picture is simple. It’s a temple-going family. Indrasena Kurup is the Karayogam president, with Manu soon to become the next secretary. So what if he is a PWD employee? As long as he is a Nair, everything is fine for the President.
Yes, the picture is simple, but after a point, I felt overwhelmed by all the kula mahima on display and the talk of safeguarding the purity of it all. The way these characters choke on the perceived superiority of their caste is intolerable. And it took me a while to realise that that is precisely what the film wants to do: ridiculing them and calling out their double standards. Okay, now the film has got my attention, albeit to a small degree.
With her directorial debut, costume designer Stephy Zaviour hasn’t made a film that’s trying to be too deep or intellectual. It doesn’t take any sides. It shows that some people are wicked, regardless of gender. It’s one female character responsible for all the chaos. But at the same time, it doesn’t paint the men as saints either, although it offers a modicum of redemption to a few male characters about whom we may have earlier had a wrong impression. It doesn’t try to find logical reasoning behind some characters’ behaviour. There is no attempt whatsoever to analyse their psychology. It simply wants to tell you that this is how some people are, and this is what happens to some of them. Aside from that, the goal here is to give audiences a good time, even though not everything the makers do in the name of it lands.
I would say there are maybe two or three situations where I laughed, one of which is a recurring gag born out of a situation where Manu realises that the only way he can talk to his mother privately is when they go out to have a coffee and masala dosa. The first time, he uses the accompanying vada as an analogy for a troubling situation. The second time, the vada is missing—on purpose—and the sambar takes its place instead, which becomes an analogy to explain another chaotic situation.
And, of course, it goes without saying that the immensely talented Saiju Kurup is hilarious as a character who is looking for the ‘most well-behaved’ girl in the neighbourhood. I also liked the ending, which basically asks, “How well do you know someone?” It’s scary and funny at the same time.
Film: Madhura Manohara Moham
Director: Stephy Zaviour
Cast: Sharafudheen, Rajisha Vijayan, Arsha Baiju, Althaf