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Minnal Murali review: Basil Joseph's superhero flick stays grounded, rooted to its origin
Even if we strip away the superhero aspect of the film or the finale CGI battle, there are a lot of well-acted out scenes and real drama etched in the screenplay which engulfs us into the story and keeps us hooked throughout.
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Guru Somasundaram, Baiju, Aju Varghese, Femina George, Sneha Babu
Director: Basil Joseph
Cinematographer: Sameer Thahir
Music directors: Sushin Shyam, Shaan Rahman
Writers: Arun Anirudhan, Justin Mathew
Synopsis: Jaison, a tailor (Tovino Thomas) gains special powers after being struck by lightning, but must take down an unexpected foe (Guru Somasundaram) if he is to become the superhero his hometown needs.
The much-anticipated Malayalam superhero film is now live and does it deliver up to the hype? Yes, it does.
Basil Joseph is one of the few Indian directors who knows how to craft a superhero film in a realistic setting, balancing both action and drama well. His previous films, Kunjiramayanam and Godha also dealt with characters being comical, true to the place set in, but are heavily dramatised.
Minnal Murali almost feels the same, as it is about love and family issues that one goes through in his daily life. It cleverly uses the superhero angle to get into the layers of drama and explore the emotional nuances of the characters much deeper.
Exploring the characters in the real place it is set in, is what the film aims for rather than developing a stylised suit that fits well for the hero to wear.
Set in a semi-rural Kerala town, all goes well until Jaison finds his arc nemesis in Shibu, another man in the town who was struck by lightning on the same night. And then, it follows what happens between them.
Until the sensational turn of events occurs, as in the lighting strikes, Jaison and Shibu are just humans like us. They are seeking out for their loved ones living a normal life. On one side, we see Jaison who thinks he is a cool guy and dreams to migrate to the US with his lover Bincy (Sneha Babu), thinking that tailoring is a great job at there and on the other side, we see Shibu who is desperately longing for love to connect back to his school lover Usha. But, unfortunately, both end up hit by truth and are bound to the reality that they cannot change anything of the past even if they have superpowers.
What works in the film is the screenplay written by Arun Anirudhan and Justin Mathew that smartly shows parallels of both Shibu and Jaison richly etching out their origin stories matching foreign caped crusaders tales but not with big CG-budget but with nuances, natively resonant human stories wrapped around genre pleasures. There isn't a particular stale depiction given to them as good or evil, as both have the same powers and do what they believe is moral to them.
The film's tone is very refreshing, as for most parts it's treated as comical and charming but in the latter half, it gets darker with gruesome acts being carried out by Shibu in name of Minnal Murali but there is a thin layer of witty humour underlying around either through conversations between the police investigating or by Jaison's cousin. Yet, we never feel the tonal shifts jarring as it unifies itself into one at the end.
Basil Joseph's world-building is astounding as well with each person in the fictionalised village having their own quirks and if you are keen on the era of the '90s, there are a bunch of hidden details spilt throughout from Aamir Khan's poster stick around Jaison's room to the mention of Marvel and DC comics, and many more.
Apart from writing, DOP Sameer Thahir also understands the creation of how Basil Joseph's world works. He tries to be as creative with the shot composition and in fight sequences with Livingston Mathew’s editing, he tries to get it as slick as possible with cool slow-motion shots. Shaan Rahman and Sushin Shyam composed songs that also beautifully blend in with the film, particularly the title track and other departments such as Art director and Production design is all on-point.
But the heavy lifting is done by actor Guru Somasundara who gives a terrific performance as an antagonist, Shibu. He brings the fear as much required for the film as Supervillain into us through his facial expressions and gets over the top in a good way. Through his role, he doesn't turn into a caricature but we root for him and understand his longing for love. On equal grounds, Tovino as usual plays with ease as an innocent naivety of the village simpleton and crosses over more matured messiah progression in the latter half. The actor shifts work quite interestingly between varying ranges of emotions that Jaison goes through yet maintains the sheer vulnerability when he needs to.
The film isn't without minor flaws as in some scenes, the CGI which if we look at the film as a whole looks commendable, but in some places, it's not upto the mark and on the face. The story also in the latter half gets a little predictable and the big CGI-fest battle at the end felt could have been done better.
But, even if we strip away the superhero aspect of the film or the finale CGI battle, there are a lot of well-acted out scenes and real drama etched in the screenplay which engulfs us into the story and keeps us hooked throughout.
Kudos, to Director Basil Joseph and his crew for trying to do something new and different in the superhero genre, and it is very effective, as this one sets an example that a film can be a genre piece and can be culturally rooted.