V K Prakash's 'Beautiful' is a slickly conceptualized film, which is more of an evocation of the human desire dynamics at work. The brilliant visual composition and the thematic rumination that it offers makes 'Beautiful' live up to its title in all possible ways.
Stephen (Jayasurya), a multimillionaire who has lived his entire life on a wheel chair, strikes up an uncharacteristic camaraderie with a hotel singer John (Anoop Menon). The two get along like a house on fire, and when Anjaly (Meghna Raj) arrives as the new maid, the two men find themselves falling hopelessly in love with her.
Menon's script is a no-nonsense one, and has the traits of a psychosexual drama written all over it, before it finally ventures into a Hitchcockian realm albeit for a very brief while. It also can easily claim to have some of the best one-liners in recent Malayalam cinema, and with this magical combination, turns out to be an intelligent film that works on multiple levels.
It's only amusedly that you can listen to Kamalu's (Nandu) take on beauty and the human perception of it, and when he exhorts you to think Aishwarya Rai struggling with stomach issues, you realize for the umpteenth time probably that a belle with a belly in distress could ruin it all and wonder if beauty is after all only stomach deep!
And yet, when Anjaly walks in a few minutes later, dripping wet in the rain, it's impossible for us not to be awestruck along with Stephen and John, by her curves. The droplets that simply refuse to let go of her waist seem to share our sentiments as well. This is the sheer electricity of male longing at work that merely fortifies with each feeble attempt to refute it.
For a change, the women in 'Beautiful' are aware of something called desire, unlike the archetypal Malayali film heroine. There is this much-married doctor (Praveena), who admits that marriage is after all a 'license to start an extra-marital affair', and who confesses that she meets up with her lover once or twice a year to keep the spirit up and going. The reason why they didn't end up being married, was simply because they didn't want to ruin all that love.
There is the housemaid Kanyaka (Tesni Khan) as well, who puts in an extra bit of effort when she settles down to trim Stephen's unruly beard. She has lost claim to her name, after she was physically abused, memories of which she brushes aside with a smirk. She even whispers to Stephen that Kamalu has been making advances on her, and when quizzed as to why she didn't care to respond, comes up with a remark that's nothing short of a holler.
And ofcourse, there is Anjaly herself, who with her sheer presence takes carnality to new heights. She is no seductress, which is to mean that there is no deliberation on her part to lure the men, but her being is reason enough to charge up the dimly lit rooms of Stephen's abode with an erotic magnetism; like in the scene, when she walks into Stephen's washroom to take a bath, and the resonance of the running water becomes almost agonizing to the two men outside.
There are a number of well written scenes in the film, and though it would be difficult to list them all out here, a few do stand apart. John, having been rejected in love, spends a night in drunken stupor, and on waking up finds his fellow singer (Aparna), who is madly in love with him, picking up the past night's leftovers. He looks at her for a while, and admits that he finally realizes the anguish of being spurned. Equally adorable is another scene, when an overtly flirtatious Stephen attempts to make Anjaly uncomfortable, by quizzing her on the complex process of wearing a sari. When she retorts by asking him if his mom has never worn a sari, the grin that spreads on Stephen's face is infectious.
There are two other men who deserve a special mention as well. There is Jomon T John, whose cinematography is, let me utter it out, as sexy as it gets. The dampness of the ambience and the forever falling rain, those fantastically lit interiors and the subtle nuances of expressions - almost everything looks stunning thanks to Jomon. Ratheesh Vegha is at it with a vengeance again, and the sound track of the film is truly out of this world, with 'Mazhaneer Thullikal' reverberating in your ears for a long, long time.
And who could forget the overwhelming performances of both Jayasurya and Anoop Menon, who seem to have well realized that this is a masterful, and perhaps even a bit of a cunning script that they have landed up with. The actors have hence given it their best shot, and the results are there to see. And perhaps there wouldn't be any other actor who could play Anjaly the way Meghna has. The enticing charm and sexiness that the actor exudes in a deglamorized avatar, and the spontaneity in her portrayal have contributed immensely to the hypnotic quality of this work.
I'm so glad that V K Prakash has finally got his due, and with the right script in his hands has crafted out sheer poetry on screen with 'Beautiful'. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but it is without doubt, one of the most absorbing Malayalam films that I have seen this year.