Udalazham Malayalam Movie ReviewFeature Film
The impressive aerial shot of a dried river bed in the beginning heralds the alarming plight of a marginalised section as well as their never-ending struggles. The tribals have their huts in the middle of the 'dead' river. Life in these settlements is alarming and pathetic since they are deprived of their basic facilities. 'Udalazham' (Body Deep), presented by director Ashiq Abu under the banner Directors' Dilemma, dismantles the conventional showcase of tribal life in films and introduces an authentic portrayal of their life enacted by tribal people themselves. Their performance is realistic to the core leaving the viewers in utter disbelief!
First-time writer-director Unnikrishnan Avala shows us a guilty-stricken Gulikan (Mani) in a ramshackle hut where he's mentally preparing for becoming a trans person. His wife Maathi (Remya Valsala) is upset with his change in personality. Mani faces abuses of every sort owing to his third gender personality. He gets solace from a classical dancer, played by Anumol, who understands his emotions better than others.
Though Gulikan and Maathi are the inhabitants in the tribal colony, they have their own individuality. Especially, Maathi shows self-esteem in her demeanour and it is the circumstances that make her draw towards the fish merchant (Abu Valayamkulam). She finds the meaning of true love in that relationship. Maathi finds sanctity in it and that's why she spurns the advances of Deputy Ranger (Rajeev Vellur) in the forest. On the contrary, Gulikan faces the biggest conflict coupled with the stigma and scare of sexual abuse by the patriarchal group. Gulikan is a disturbed soul as he finds no place comfortable for him. His last resort with Moorthy (Indrans) also ends in vain.
Inspired by the life of Kerala's only known tribal transgender A. Raju, 'Udalazham' relates how the youth struggles to transform while responding to the call of his soul. His frantic run for social acceptance and reviving life is poignant. It's a brilliantly made film that constantly sends shockwaves to its viewers by unravelling reality.
Mani is a tribal youth in real life, and he had acted along with Mohanlal in the film 'Photographer', which bagged him the State Award for Best Child Artiste in 2006. Gulikan is in the shackles of his mental conflict that pushes him to a miserable state where a solution is hard to come by. It's a passionately enacted character by Mani, who really absorbs every layer of it to give an effective performance. Newcomer Remya Valsala is supremely impressive with an exhilarating presence in 'Udalazham'.
Unnikrishnan translates exquisitely a quasi-documentary theme to a meaningful film that sheds light on the exploitation of Nature and the under-privileged by a seemingly cultured group, called modern man. Set in in the forest near Nilambur, the disturbing visuals of their life are devoid of cinematic fripperies, instead, they introduce a new way of life. The strength of the director is his dedicated and honest approach to such a theme that offers a unique viewing experience.
Indeed, content is the king for 'Udalazham' as it leaves a scar that will haunt the viewers while immersing in it. The word 'harsh reality' would be a trite usage, but it's really a burning truth once you witness the reality. With little compromise in the technical department, the film's cinematography by Mohammed. A is stupendous and the background score by Bijibal is also equally good.
NOW PLAYING | MOVIE REVIEWS