Madhya Venal Malayalam Movie ReviewFeature Film
Madhu Kaithapram's Madhya Venal is set in a blistering midsummer with the sun blazing down obstinately on the hard baked earth. With the temperatures rising phenomenally with each passing day, it scorches down every remnant of life left, burning down green into grey and dreams into dust.
There is news for Comrade Kumaran (Manoj K Jayan) on a sweltering day, when he turns into a stunned onlooker all on a sudden, as a political ideology that had defined his very being, turns more acquiescent to accommodate materialism into its fold, pushing him out in the process. Devastated, he returns home to his wife, Sarojini (Shwetha Menon), who simply refuses to give up. Oblivious to the plight of her parents, or the shifting cultural and political scenario around her, Manuja (Nivedha) tolerantly waits for the clouds and the rains.
This is a new age story that is gritty enough to make no negotiations when it comes to staring at the truth in the eye. The reckless daughter who returns back home throwing up her arms in repentance has disappeared behind the curtains. There is simply no possibility for atonement here, since there are no regrets. All you would find is dissent welling up in the young girl's intolerant eyes, when she painfully explains for one last time, as to why there isn't a harm any more in making compromises for grabbing what you badly need. Left with no further options, the appalled mother listens. As the distress finally gives way to a sense of acceptance, she decides to breathe in a new life into her own soul and update her armory. To get across these dog days, she needs to replenish her cells, go all out and give it one last go.
Anil Mukhathala's script chalks out a few indicators of a postmillennial malady, and faithfully examines the dejection and desolation that have crept in, despite all the exuberance linked to progress and advancement. It's a biting reflection of the present day life in a country, that's striving hard to come to terms with the upheavals of alteration. However, the film is not for a moment, cynical nor is it fatalistic. It's a blade-to-the-heart film that's powerful and persuasive to the core.
Kumaran talks of the legacy of Kannur that smelt of beedi factories, budding newspapers and the blossoming of literacy and puts in a fantastic analogy between the party and tendu leaves of today - both rotting away with bugs biting into them. When Sarojini gets a glimpse of him weaving at the Charkha, she amusedly asks if the Communist has transformed into a Congress supporter. Its then that Kumaran reaffirms that there is no greater communism in the world than the one proclaimed by the man who decided that he wouldn't conceal his torso, until his fellow beings had the rights and means to do so.
Streaks of the striking Surdas bhajan 'Shyam Tori Murli', drift somewhere down the empty corridors, reminiscent of an age that had softly passed by. As Khadi undergoes a makeover into fashion wear, Sarojini sighs at the world around her that's busy changing its drapes. Admonishing her girl who's late to wake up, Sarojini murmurs that a girl needs to keep her eyes open even while asleep. This is an age where several questions don't have answers; they would remain questions for as long as the race remains.
The contemporary leftist leader, who gets ready to launch a new-generation bank in the village, is seen acquiring the mouse skills from his son. He gapes at the monitor, all awed at a vibrant fresh world that has opened before him at a click; a world that refreshes itself by the second, where dictums are written and rewritten every moment.
It might be unintentional that the mother who has just lost her newborn has been named Yasodha (Sabitha Jayaraj). It's a fabulous scene when Sarojini helps the woman thread a new life, starting from the scratch, placing her frail hands on the spinning machine yet again, and aiding her to work herself into the future. Several frames later, Sarojini herself, left alone in life, walks in and feels the fabric that she had spun half-way before her husband's death. She soon settles down to spinning the rest of it, silent tears streaking down her cheeks.
Praveen (Arun), the hi-fi banker, has none of the traits that one normally identifies with a conventional crook. He's a very earthy man, fiercely ambitious, totally self-centered and wholly indifferent to the lives around him; obviously ordained to take the wrong steps at some or all points of time, and who heads for a sure shot devastating end.
Manuja on the other hand seems to have got most of her wits around her, at least initially, when she pushes aside her desires to be an engineer or to buy a TV for a more basic craving to have some milk with her tea. The lure of wealth inches into her leisurely, and soon she has no qualms in accepting a mobile phone or a credit card from her savior, who has just ridden in on a horseback, to rescue her from the drought all around. Once that happens she conveniently disregards those delicate margins between rights and wrongs. Furthermore, they even cease to exist.
With his glasses cracked into pieces, a septuagenarian comrade Ambuvettan strains to toil at the ambar, heedless of a revolution that had taken place. The glisten of a swanky laptop perched beside the glass jars of a local teashop speaks of a country that is on an upward swing as never before. In a frantic flee to go all global, Gandhism and Khadi turn into trademarks. It's all about marketing, as Praveen says.
A career-high performance by Shwetha Menon makes the film a must-watch. Riveting and uncompromising, Shwetha is at her very best in a movie that records a few other stellar feats as well. Nivedha, Manoj K Jayan, and Arun chip in those extra bits as well to create a long-lasting impression on the viewer.
There is no escape from the heat that engulfs you as you watch Madhyavenal. It's a realization of life that happens all over the world, even as it talks of a few souls who have been left behind as the world went ahead on a stroll. Trying to catch up with what they have lost in terms of time and space, they continue to explore the dynamics of desire, power, and penury and futilely search for equations of fairness amidst a million instances of inequity.