'Ayothi' movie review: Full of heart and yet, marred by melodrama
However, Yashpal, the veteran actor, does complete justice to the role with his convincing performance.
Death is indeed a profound teacher of life. Perhaps, it is death that reminds us to be humane and that the greatest loss is what dies inside us when we are alive. Many a time, human’s basic tenet, to be compassionate and empathic, is vanquished by cultivated differences, conceit and intolerance. And only the unsparing death of our close ones teaches us the value of life and makes us realise that we are all just a speck of dust in the universe. And Sasi Kumar’s Ayothi, an emotional drama, serves as a reminder for us to stay grounded and rise above the manufactured plague that comes in various names called religion, caste, creed, and race.
Initially, like many of them, I was sceptical if it was a political film considering the title’s reference to the place, Ayodhya, which holds the history of the political and socio-religious dispute over a piece of land. Although the film begins with montage shots of Ayodhya town, we soon understand that the film is endeavouring to tell a different story about life, death, and everything in between.
A chauvinistic patriarch Balram (Yashpal) from Ayodhya, decides to take his family, consisting of his wife Janaki, daughter Shivani (Preethi) and a young son, on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram.
During the road transit from Madurai to Rameshwaram, Balram misbehaves with the driver, leading to an altercation. As the driver loses control, the car meets with an accident, leading to Janaki’s death. When the driver informs his friends, characters played by Sasikumar and Pugazh, decide to help the family in transporting the body to their native. The film unfolds with some soul-stirring series of events of the day.
Based on true events, the writer-director has taken an unconventional route to mark his directorial debut without any mass action block, a comedy track to induce chuckles or a muddled love angle.
Most importantly, one of the palpable aspects of the film is that the Hindi-speaking characters continue to speak in their mother tongue without shifting to Tamil or an overlapped Tamil dub. It helped the film retain its rootedness and realness in the emotions.
While the film has a reinvigorating story, the experience is watered down due to the burgeoning melodrama in many scenes. For instance, when the body is taken out of the mortuary, the extended shots of the children crying, on-and-off intercuts to the dead body, backed by the serial-ish melancholic-background score, stood extremely suffocating.
As audiences are embracing the idea of realistic cinema, the old-school treatment of forcefully injecting hard-hitting emotions could rip off the opportunity for the audiences to feel it by themselves organically. Likewise, Balram’s character being abusive to his wife, mercilessly not understanding the feelings of his children and harbouring customs and beliefs without even feeling for the loss of his wife does infuriate but, his overtly aggressive demeanour seems a bit caricaturish.
However, Yashpal, the veteran actor, does complete justice to the role with his convincing performance. Debutant Preethi, who plays the timid and naive Shivani throughout the film, has an assertive scene in pre-climax that lets her show off her acting potential. And at a point when she explodes at her inhumane father, making him realise that he did not let her mother live in peace, and yet bothers following customs to let her rest in peace, reverberates the core crux of the film. And for Sasikumar, other than his disjointed introduction fight scene, there are no unnecessary heroic moments. The actor gracefully plays the part and makes us feel like he is one among us. Comedian Pugazh efficiently breaks out of the typecast.
Meanwhile, Ayothi has its share of some predictable elements, including the final reveal and some reactions in between. But it can be overlooked for the genuine efforts reflected in the writing. Although it is an emotional drama, the creator has sincerely weaved in some challenging conflictsto offer a satisfactory experience. It is indeed a relief to see a film stand true to its vision in most parts. However, the haphazard Gana and dance sequence by a bunch of petty thieves at the police station is completely out of place.
Ayothi could have offered a long-lasting impact if only there was some finesse in the craft and freshness in the treatment. Even the hackneyed style of music and the songs lacked subtlety, hence, creating jarring atmos. Ayothi, through the concept of death, comments on brotherhood, the value of family, and shows that love knows no difference. Above all, it instils hope that there are still some good people left on earth, making it a better place to live.
Director: Manthira Moorthy
Cast: Sasi Kumar, Yashpal Sharma, Preethi Asrani, Pugazh