It’s always endearing to watch a well-portrayed love story. Every year, a coming-of-age drama emerges which, if not entirely character driven, possesses the right amount of charm and tenderness to win over hearts. While some may be lighter, easy viewing, some others send out a message. And they all tend to portray the resilience of the human spirit in one way or the other.
What distinguishes Maniyarayile Ashokan is not just its charm quotient, but the treatment that reminds of Malayalam movies of the 80’s.
The film released on Netflix, on Thiruvonam day, produced by Dulquer Salmaan takes the audience first through the insecure bachelorhood of the protagonist and then finding happiness with nature and ultimately achieving his dream.
In fact, we are introduced to him by one of his dreams where he gets married to a pretty woman and has kids.
Ashokan - played by Jacob Gregory - is a middle-class youth who is employed as a clerk at the village office. But he is highly insecure about his height and complexion.
While all his friends and relatives are either married or in relationships, Ashokan struggles to find a partner. But as time passes, the God of cupid plays his part and Ashokan finds his love in Shyama, played by Anupma Parameswaran. But then, the horoscope comes as a villain and trouble begins to brew in their life.
Magesh Boji and Vineeth Krishnan have penned the story and screenplay for this Shamzu Zayba directorial, which is a charming romantic comedy on marriage, the customs and our obsession with it. It also works as a social commentary on how certain norms define our society's idea of arranged marriage.
We might have seen various shades Ashokan's character in many movies in the past, such as Sreenivasan’s Vadakkunokiyanthram, Paavam Paavam Rajakumaran, and the recent Vinay Forrt-starrer Thamasha.
With a breezy first half, the film didn’t obsessively go about exploring the protagonists’ inner feelings nor did it emphasize on matching horoscope for successful marriages. What the film does is to make great use of the writers knack for a life-affirming film.
Though the film slightly gets predictable in parts but overall it has all the ingredients to charm the audience.
The casting is a treat. There are ample cameos and extended roles that make sure to deliver a fun watch. It’s amusing to watch Gregory Jacob grow mature from his playful roles like the one from ABCD to Ashokan.
He subtly manages the viewer to empathise for him which could have easily gone awry. His personality lends itself well to the character. It’s to be noted that the screenplay leaves Shyama’s character completely and entirely open to viewers' interpretation. There is a scene where she tries to end her life and moments later she faints on knowing about the horoscope mismatch. The character played by Krishna Sankar mouths the dialogue, ‘how ironic’ and we can’t agree more.
Having had Asokan’s one-dimensional character fully fleshed, the film then tried to incorporate a host of unformed plot elements including Shine Tom Chacko’s character. Yet, Maniyarayile Ashokan does manage to achieve its desired end, owing to the promising individual brilliance from the young cast.
The best part of the film is definitely the music. The songs and the tunes set by debutant Sreehari K Nair lingers on and gels well with the screenplay that carries a rhythmic flow.
Sajad Kakku, the debutant cinematographer has done an excellent job by capturing the rural village life. And this includes, strolling through banana fields, men bathing by the lake, staring at the moon in the night, highlighting how nature is intertwined with the daily lives of people at the place.
Maniyarayile Ashokan grabs attention for its simplicity and innocence devoid of any earth-shattering plot. It makes for a enjoyable watch this Onam season.