Mohan Kumar Fans Malayalam Movie Review
Jis Joy's new theater release, Mohan Kumar Fans is a heartfelt tribute to the old age of Malayalam cinema. This often-manipulative and sometimes-stagy film is about a yesteryear movie star, Siddique's Mohan Kumar, who makes a comeback into Malayalam cinema after a long gap.
At the start of the film, a passing character says that stars like Mohan Kumar fatefully fade away due to the fierce competition from the likes of Mohanlal and Mammootty. It is the nature of the beast, not a critique of the star system in the industry.
Mohan Kumar gets critical acclaim and the audience's appreciation for his comeback film. But the same kind of competition from the new generation stars finds him virtually clinging on to a fading career. With few roles and personal grudges coming his way, Kumar decides to try for national recognition in the hopes of a new lease of professional life.
When watching the film, I remembered what actor Salim Kumar once said about the film industry. He said it is like a pooram festival. You go from one movie set to another, whereas people in one set with happy faces would talk to you like they know you for years. But once you leave the set, no one would keep in touch with you. So, you better hope that you are also happy when at the festival-like sets.
There is a world beyond cinema where stars no longer have a halo around them and a facade of stars. Joy is mainly interested in exploring that world, and while his film seems stagy in some places, it works because it has its heart in the right place.
Earlier, Jos Joy used to strain to verbalize his feelings and ideas in cinema, but here, words flow out of him effortlessly. An example is that scene where Kunchacko Boban's Krishnan Unni tells Kumar that the sky-high hopes in the life of commoners like him only sparkle like a zero watt bulb at a distance away. The thoughtful line comes at a pivotal point in the film.
That said, Mohan Kumar Fans is not a film with such serious thoughts right through. The occasional and much-needed comic relief comes from Vinay Forrt's new-generation superstar character. Fearing his birth name lacks the punch for a superstar, his Kripesh opts for a punchier screen name. The Vinay Forrt character also has a thing for social media as he uses it as a cheap PR tool. Forrt is a hoot here as Kripesh/Aghosh Menon. He plays the character with a big ego and many humblebrags like how it should be enacted, i.e., with a sense of self-awareness. It never seems like Aghosh Menon is forced into the screenplay, but you cannot say that about every other character in this film.
Take Sreenivasan's fortune teller-like Paulutty Brother, for instance. It is not a must-have character in the film as it is more of a plot device. Anyhow, Joy does not make the kind of mistakes that a lesser filmmaker usually would. Think about what he could have done with Anarkali Nazar's character of Sreeranjini, Mohan Kumar's daughter.
Malayalam cinema's obsession with background music is sickening. Joy's film has scenes with much scope for drama by default, so the last thing you want is cliched, sentimental background music in the already-dramatic moments.
Anyhow, you can overlook all of those flaws for the film has a heartfelt final act that justifies the inclusion of 'fans' in the title. I could watch Siddique act all day. His perceptive performance allows the makers to convey complex human emotions with economical dialogues.