Kettiyolaanu Ente Malakha: Asif Ali is splendid in this highly relevant film!
‘Kettiyolaanu Ente Malakha’ starts off with a prayer scene in a cemetery and from there we are gradually introduced to our protagonist Sleevachan and his family. He lives along with his old mother and is very passionate about farming, like a typical Idukki native. Though his family, comprising of his four sisters and their spouses try to get him married, Sleevachan doesn’t encourage their proposals. At one point, he decides to get married for the sake of his family. The arrival of a partner creates some fuss as Sleevachan finds it difficult to mingle which eventually leads to something drastic.
Debutant Aji Peter Thankam has scripted the film and is directed by newcomer Nissam Basheer. Though the film looks like a family drama on the surface level, it has a very tricky subject that would have been regressive if not for the sensitive approach. The two newcomers deserve special credit for that.
Mild spoilers ahead
Marital rape is a concept hardly discussed in Malayalam cinema. In the recent past, ‘Ottamuri Velicham’ was a film that had a similar subject. However, it was not a mainstream film and found its place mostly among the festival circles. Moreover, it is a very disturbing film that’s hard to sit through for a commoner.
This is where ‘Kettiyolaanu Ente Malakha’ differs. It is made in a completely commercial format and has a light-hearted tone. But despite that there is no attempt to downplay things. Due respect and agency is given to the female lead and her trauma is convincingly portrayed. Marital rape and the need for sex education are discussed very effectively in the film and it still does not come across as preachy or as an unpleasant watch. The sincerity with which the makers have approached the film has certainly paid off.
Asif Ali as Sleevachan is at his natural best and delivers one his finest performances till date. It is quite a complicated character. He’s not a chauvinist like Govind (Uyare), another film in which Asif gave a remarkable performance. The two characters stand poles apart. Sleevachan has unique traits of his own. He is well mannered, hard-working and good-at-heart, but hardly has any idea about relationships or women in general.
As one of the characters in the film says, for ‘Sleevachan’, woman means his mother or his sisters. When such a person gets married one fine day, there will be lot of turbulence and Asif ensures that the character is safe in his hands. The actor looked very convincing especially in the climactic portions. His emotional act in the ending is splendid and can even move the toughest of hearts.
Asif is ably supported by Veena Nandhakumar, the debutante who played the wife’s part. It is not often that a newcomer gets such a plum role and Veena has grabbed it with both hands. Brownie points to the makers for casting so many lesser known actors who all looked apt in that milieu. Basil Joseph and Jaffer Idukki are the other two familiar actors who have done their parts well.
On the negative side, veteran actor Raveendran and his comedy numbers just don’t work. The humour could have been far better had there been a more refined actor. Also his character of a loudmouth middle-aged barber from Bombay is very stereotypical and could have been done away with.
Another blip is the sudden transformation in Sleevachan’s character. His arc is not convincing as he goes through a major change very rapidly over the course of a typical song sequence. There is also a beautifully conceived scene featuring two fishes that carries the soul of the film but wished they had used it as a metaphor rather than being too explicit. In spite of all that, the positives outweigh the flaws.
In a nutshell, the title ‘Kettiyolaan Ente Malakha’, might sound cheesy but the film is not one. It is a proper no-nonsense entertainer that’s very important in today’s times.