What interests us most in Lenin Rajendran's Makaramanju is the parallel narrative - the epic story of Pururavas and Urvasi as seen through the eyes of a painter who is determined to craft his masterpiece. That apart, the film stretches and strains a bit too hard as the jerks and jolts between the two story lines get a bit too tiring after a while.
There is Santhosh Sivan himself playing the much renowned painter from Kerala, Raja Ravi Verma, who is on exile, following an innocent looking liaison with a model (Nithya Menon) that went terribly wrong. He has found refuge in the big, bad city of Bombay, where he meets wine and women aplenty.
Bhagirathi (Lekshmi Sharma), is his wife back home, who confesses that his visits once in a while that often gift her with a child, are simply not enough. She goes out of her way to seduce him, requesting him to make her his canvas and to paint her all anew.
There is talk about Theodore Jackson and the Kilimanoor Palace, and of all possible cross reverences that could be afforded. There is Makhanji (Jagathy Sreekumar) as well, who is all optimistic about the market value of the painter's works.
Ravi Verma in Rajendran's film has transformed into a rebel, and the twirled mustache is just an indication. He is forever battling with himself and those around him, and hopelessly torn apart by the pangs of love, he comes across as a terribly confused man, with flashes of a firm ideology.
The object of his affection is none other than Sugandha Bai (Karthika), a dancer who later models for him. It is to her, that he narrates the love tale of Pururavas and Urvasi, and as the painter and his model are drawn closer to each other, they realize, that the epic story is being rewritten again.
Santhosh Sivan looks remarkably confident as both Ravi Verma and Pururavas, and his highly unconventional looks add an extra charm to his portrayal of both the characters. Karthika, however, has all the amateurishness of a fresher, and goes woefully overboard at times and excessively restrained at others.
Makaramanju is a beautiful film, thanks to the remarkable frames of Madhu Ambatt. Having witnessed a naked Pururavas in the glorious moonlight, Urvasi bids adieu to her lover once and for all. And as the King looks on in amazement, she flies up to heaven, promising to meet him again someday - one of the most striking scenes in the film, thanks to an amazing cinematographer at the helm of affairs.
Makaramanju loses grip on its material half way through, and remains an elusive piece that doesn't tug at your heart strings. Which is why, you walk out of the hall mumbling to yourself that perhaps a bit more clever scripting could have made all the difference.
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