KOCHI: Dileep and Shafi should seek the services of an astrologer to find out how their birth stars aligned with the solar system on Christmas day, the day their film ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’ released. In such cosmic patterns lie perhaps the only clues to the stupendous success of their second film together.

Earthly reasons for the phenomenon are near impossible to find.

It can be argued that there is no point in looking for any when success itself is a mighty vindication. But there is something very puzzling about this triumph. The popularity of a film like ‘Traffic’ is easy to explain. The analysis is straightforward: the film is exceptionally good. But understanding the success of ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’, though the film is a no-brainer, could be intellectually daunting. More disturbingly, the film’s success could question one’s very instincts, highly dependable till the last moment.

Won’t it be a bit too cynical to consider ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’ a below par entertainer? It raises quite a few laughs, true. But the jokes are mostly physical. More Tamil than Malayalam. It is not of the endearing variety that can be used to lift the general mood during a friendly get-together. The laughter was loudest, for instance, when Dileep lifts the ‘lungi’ of a villain and throws a mugful of boiling hot water on his private parts.

The comedy might not have been subtle but can it be denied that there was something novel and interesting about the story? This claim can be easily trashed. The film is a comical version of the parable of the prodigal son. This theme, of a wastrel who finally comes to his senses, is one of the most recycled themes in Malayalam films. ‘Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal’ is a very fine retelling of this biblical story. But the way things are, the full-capacity screenings even after 35 days, it seems that even the hugely popular and infinitely more enjoyable Sathyan Anthikkad film will only be half a hit as ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’.

Why can’t we just stop being finicky and think of the film as a beautiful love story? We could have had the heroine in the film behaved less like a bossy elder sister and more like a lover pining for her beloved. Nonetheless it has to be admitted that Bhavana, in the little time that she is given, lights up the screen with a lovely glitter, the dust of which can be spotted on the faces of those watching the film. But her role does not have the heft, nor the length, to make a difference.

Dileep then must have come up with an exciting performance that blinded the audience to the shortcomings of the film? What can be said is, Solomon, the character played by Dileep, looks unnecessarily excited. Solomon is hyper, as if he is always put on shock treatment. Dileep, in spite of all his gifts, is not blessed with fluid body movements. He normally looks brittle like a cartoon character, but this also gives him his impish charm. In this film he looks like a puppet awkwardly manipulated by a tense first-time puppeteer.

Dileep might have overplayed his part but then Biju Menon must have been a revelation? Good supporting roles, Manoj K Jayan’s Kuttan Thampuran in ‘Sargam’ for instance, have at times worked wonders. Biju Menon grabs attention initially because he reminds one of giants in fairy tales. Like all giants he knows no pain, eats a lot and talks a little.

But when his best moments happen, Dileep, who is always around, goes over the top with his antics. Result is, Biju gets hardly noticed and his character becomes nothing more than a mighty impressive statue in the background. And a statue, unless it suddenly acquires life and starts moving about, fails to get noticed once the initial curiosity dies down.

But this general disappointment, is it not the fallout of watching the film a month after its release? Possible. The awareness that the film is a big hit might have unfairly raised expectations. Only a person who saw the film in the first week could give an unpolluted opinion. We had in fact talked to some right after they came out of the first day first show of the film. Almost all of them made a raised-eyebrow expression that suggested not that they were overwhelmed by the film but that they were pleasantly surprised, as if they never expected Shafi and Benny P Nayarambalam to come up with such a fare. The expression could also have meant they were a bit confused.

Low expectations from a Shafi-Nayarambalam film must have provided the flick some natural immunity from criticism. But if this logic held true then second-grade filmmakers should be churning out one hit after the other.

It seems that there is just one thing that can be said with certainty about ‘Marykkundoru Kunjadu’. The film has unleashed an enigmatic charm upon the audience. To know how and why this happened it looks as if one has either to look up to the skies with folded hands or scatter cowrie shells on an astrological chart and decipher the position of the sun and the moon and stars on Christmas day.

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