Maniyarayile Ashokan Malayalam Movie Review
In Shamzu Zayba's new film titled 'Maniyarayile Ashokan', an adult man marries a banana tree as an astrologer-prescribed, ritualistic solution to his marriage problem. The film's central character, Ashokan, appears to be inspired by the 1990's Sreenivasan movies. His predicament is somewhat reminiscent of 'Pavam Pavam Rajakumaran', where Sreenivasan played an adult with inferiority complex who mistakenly believes that a young woman is in love with him.
The central premise of Maniyarayile Ashokan is interesting, and this movie also has a man with inferiority complex. Ashokan played by Jacob Gregory is having a hard time finding a suitable match for him due to the society's blind faith in age-old conventions like the horoscope. Ashokan is a down-on-his-luck adult man who most of us can relate to. A girl turns him down by saying that he is not handsome and tall enough for her. His luck starts to change when he and Shyama (Anupama Parameswaran) fall in love. But their marriage does not happen when an astrologer says that his first wife would die, according to his horoscope.
The issue with Ashokan is that he believes in the horoscope. Even in 2020, anyone with a passing interest in horoscope would approach an astrologer for a solution. Remember Suraj Venjarammood's 'Kunajappan' from last year's 'Android Kunjappan', where a grown-up man seeks an astrologer's advice for his robot? So, it is not surprising that Ashokan believes an astrologer who tells him to marry and take care of a banana tree as a solution to his issue. The idea itself is believable enough, but the makers' propensity to slip into snippets and songs as ways to convey it does not bear fruit.
At the point of the movie, where the astrologer prescribes the recipe, I remembered an old news regarding 'frog wedding' as a ritual in north India for rain. And, the piece of news is referenced in the very next scene of the movie. This comes off as an attempt of the makers to convey how humdrum our conventions are. But we do not want the movie to tell its ideas through the snippet or, as we later discover, through songs. Instead, what we want is for the makers to convince us in the story through action.
Yes, there is that scene where Ashokan 'speaks' to the tree as if it is his newlywed, but a great idea on paper fails to translate properly on the screen. This is true of the whole movie. The idea of Maniyarayile Ashokan is good on paper, but the makers fail to convey it in a way that makes us care for the character. The main reason for that is Gregory is just not convincing enough to make us believe in the predicament of this complicated man. So, the makers use both a song that intermittently spans about 15 minutes and details about Ashokan's past, to convey what the actor or the action cannot.
Even the surprise element in the form of a cameo, hidden from us in the trailers, is not the best-kept secret it is made out to be.