Madhuram Malayalam Movie
Ahammed Khabeer's Madhuram is a subtle, heartfelt and poignant love story of a middle-aged couple. We do not often see this kind of film in Malayalam. Often, Malayalam cinema produces love stories of the younger generation. There is also the story of a younger couple here, but it is not the dominant one. Khabeer only intersperses it with the love story of the older couple.
Khabeer tells the story with food as a storytelling tool as he moves from the present and past and vice versa. We first see Joju George's Sabu having a secret meeting with his lover Chitra. We see the face of the man in the conversation but not that of the woman. It is her birthday, and he gives her a box of biryani with a candle in the middle. Now, why would he give biryani instead of a cake? Of course, the answer is pretty obvious, but we only get to know it later.
It is an interesting use of food, an element that plays a big part in the film. Madhuram is the first film that best uses food as an element showing how it unites people after Ritesh Batra's Hindi film entitled 'The Lunchbox'. Only, Madhuram is not about a long-distance relationship but one with a great deal of physical intimacy.
Another element that plays a big role in the movie is a hospital, which is where the present events take place. Sabu forms delicate relationships with the people he meets at the hospital. The director uses scenes to show that everyone likes Sabu. Whether it is the attendant who delivers him rice porridge or the hotel owner who gives him food and puts it on his tab, everyone likes Sabu. Joju George has an everyman quality that makes him just perfect for the role. Whenever you see Joju and hear him talk in the movie, you will have a sense of warmth and will smile. Sabu is an antithesis to Joju's expletive-rich character, Thankan, from Lijo Jose Pellissery's mind-bending film Churuli.
Sabu is a lot closer to who Joju George is in real life. In the TV show Nere Chovve, the interviewer once called Joju a fool, but the actor just smiled in response to it. Sabu is your average joe, a sweet man with an inherent nicety who smiles and makes you smile. Any woman will fall in love with him, and Shruti Ramachandran's Chitra is no exception. The director shows their love story deftly and maturely. Unlike in some of our younger generation love stories, the protagonist does not stalk the other main character in Madhuram. It is a relationship that develops through casual talks over plates of biryani. The songs in the movie take the story further.
By the time Khabeer shows us the face of Chitra, he introduces many characters. Some of them are Arjun Ashokan's Kevin, Fahim Safar's Thajuddheen, Nikhila Vimal's Cherry, Indrans' Ravi, and Jaffer Idukki's Kunjikka. Most of them are bystanders in a hospital. A lot of the movie involves casual conversations and serious talks between the bystanders in the facility. Khabeer, his cinematographer and his art director create an authentic, lived-in setting.
In terms of presentation, the relationship of Kevin and Cherry kind of runs parallel to that of Sabu and Chitra, although the timelines differ. As for Kevin, Sabu is an elder buddy and a relationship counselor. The movie broaches borderline problematic ideas about marriage and divorce in the conversations between Sabu and Kevin, but it is not quite a deal-breaker. Besides, the director leaves a bit to our imagination when it comes to the relationship between Kevin and Cherry. The performances of Arjun and Nikhila are not perfect, but the actors are sincere. And, even as their portion strains a bit to convey the predicament in their life, the film works as it never loses its focus.
This is ultimately the love story of Sabu and Chitra, which is simple yet moving. The performances are wonderful, including those of Jaffer Idukki and Indrans. Jaffer Idukki is another actor who showed that he could not only scare us with a role in Churuli but also make us laugh here. There is some real warmth in the interactions between his Kunjikka and Joju's Sabu.