Jan E Man Malayalam Movie Review
Chidambaram's Jan.e.Man is a hilarious dark comedy about the unavoidable situations in life such as birth, loneliness, and death. It is a film full of great ironies. Take for instance the name of one of the central characters, Joymon, played by Basil Joseph. Despite the happy-sounding name, Joymon is not particularly happy.
A nurse in a snowy Canadian village, Joymon spends much of his time drinking, talking to Amazon Alexa, going to church, and so forth. Joymon becomes lonely and depressed when his village in Canada is blanketed in snow and he has no one to talk to except for the Amazon voice assistant. The situation may be dire on paper but its rendering on screen is funny.
We feel sympathy for Joymon in that portion, but soon we will start judging him a bit for the attention-seeker he becomes. The main film begins when Joymon comes back home to celebrate his birthday with a group of old friends, notably Arjun Asokan's Sampath and Ganapathy's Faizal. Sampath is not particularly happy with the birthday celebration idea. And, when they all move to Sampath's home for the celebration, a major event in a neighbor's residence threatens to throw a spanner in the works.
Chidambaram gives us tidbits of information at different points in the film that seem to serve no major purpose initially but make sense eventually. Sampath harbors enmity with a particular person in the neighborhood. The reason for it associates Sampath and that other character with a specific event from the past. The present-day event in the neighborhood is not particularly ripe for comedy, but Chidambaram and his co-writers Ganapathi and Sapnesh Varachal create incredibly funny moments out of the situation.
Jan.e.Man is one of the funniest recent films without Jagathy Sreekumar in it. A great actor and an incredibly funny actor, Jagathy Sreekumar set the bar so high for comedy films in Malayalam that anything reasonably funny seems remotely funny. So, it is so tricky for a movie of over 2 hours to make us laugh pretty much throughout. You can view a lot of this movie as more of a situational comedy, a genre that modern Malayalam cinema seldom does well.
A reason why the film works is the choice of the actors for the respective roles, which is pretty good. The same goes for the characterization. You may not initially think of Arjun Asokan, Ganapathi or Balu Varghese for their roles, but they all play their parts competently. Lal is amazing here as a grumpy, old man with a deep sense of loss and longing. The actor's ability to cry on cue is commendable. I am more impressed with how he forms a beautiful idea about his character with a thin line.
That is true for almost all the other actors in the movie. For instance, Balu Varghese has a good character with a good arc here. Watch how the feeling of Balu Varghese's character Monichan changes as we learn more about the man. It is a beautiful piece of characterization. There is also a hired hooligan here who makes the silliest of jokes in inopportune situations.
The movie does not have many negatives unless you nitpick. Perhaps there is a slight issue with the pacing in the pre-interval portion, but a movie is no bullet train. It is a set-up for the bundle of laughs and the dollops of emotions that come later. The acting and Ganapathi's craft are so good that even the slightly sentimental scenes work well. Even a Superman reference is hilariously executed.