Platform: Netflix

Release Date: 24/12/2021

Cast: Tovino Thomas, Guru Somasundaram, Baiju, Harisree Ashokan, Shelly Kishore   

Director: Basil Joseph

Jaison (Tovino Thomas) is madly in love with Bincy, the daughter of the local S.I Saajan (Baiju). What he doesn’t know is that the crafty Bincy has already consented to marry a financially better off individual that her father has chosen for her. The truth of the matter dawns on Jaison on the day of Christmas.

He cannot accept this treachery and lands up on Saajan’s doorsteps dressed as Santa Claus and tries to persuade Bincy to change her decision. When he fails to convince her, he bad-mouths her in the presence of the entire community. SI Saajan, who hates Jaison immensely threatens to kill him by pulling out his gun but before he can shoot him, Jaison is struck by lightning and falls unconscious.

Shibu (Guru Somasundaram) is a social outcast who has been dished out nothing but hatred and subjugation by the people. He has been in love with Usha (Shelly Kishore) since childhood but was always shooed away from her by Usha’s brother Daasan (Harisree Ashokan).

Being dirt poor, without a mother and a social outcast didn’t let Shibu ever have the courage to speak his heart to Usha. Years passed. Usha eloped with a man who later married her but then left her with a child and ran away. After years of suffering, Usha returned to the village. 

Shibu who had been miserable all these years could once again see Usha every day and be happy to be around the one person that he loved and coveted all his life. It is on Christmas day that Shibu learns of Usha’s return to the village. He is ecstatic about it. He boards a small boat and lands up right next to her house watching her in peace and enjoying some melodies on the radio. It is at this juncture that he is suddenly struck by lightning and he falls unconscious. 

Minnal Murali is the story of what happens when these two dissimilar individuals gain superpowers by a freak accident and begin to use them for altogether different purposes. I enjoyed this film for a plethora of reasons but none of those reasons was more pronounced than the fact that the film was more about human emotions and human conditions than anything else.

The stakes in the story are set up by the emotional and dramatic states of the two men involved in the story and it is also these emotional and dramatic elements that further the narrative and the actions of these individuals. 

Jaison is at first disillusioned by the sudden betrayal of Bincy. He wants to move out of the village, become rich and prove himself to the girls who just dumped him for a more financially viable option. SI Saajan wants revenge on Jaison for insulting his daughter and hence destroys his chances of moving out of the village and also assaults his father. Catapulted by the vicious insult and the fact that he hit his father, Jaison wants revenge on SI Saajan. Hence, he uses his superpowers for the first time. This act escalates into a chain of events and forces him to use his power, again and again, to save himself from being implicated for things that he hasn’t done in the first place.

Shibu learns of his superhuman abilities through the course of the next few days after being struck by the lightning. This not only changes his personality completely but also gives him the courage to inch closer to Usha. As he gets closer to her, he learns that she is in desperate need of a lot of money to treat her daughter who has a critical medical condition. Thus, Shibu rob a bank using his superpowers but the blame for it is put on Jaison who on the same night had assaulted SI Saajan and the other police officers albeit in disguise.

As Shibu tries to make his way to Usha and be in a position to speak his heart out to her, situations keep forcing him into taking drastic measures that almost always involve doing someone mortal harm and implicating Jaison for the crime in the process. 

Soon a time comes when Shibu lands up at the moment that he had dreamed for his entire life. Unfortunately, it is also the moment that proves to be the final nail in the coffin for the man and it turns him into the unadulterated evil that not only threatens the safety of the entire village but also forces the protagonist of the story to come out in his true elements.

As must be clear from the above paragraphs, every action, and every otherworldly element in Minnal Murali is propelled by basic human emotions and conflicts. This is something that makes the proceedings of the film not only realistic but also ensures that everything that the protagonist and the antagonist do have its roots in basic human emotions and problems.

This instantaneously elevates the narrative of the film and makes the audiences connect with the story, the characters, the drama, the predicament, and ultimately the superhero stuff without any looming questions and need for suspension of disbelief.

I just loved the fact that the director played out the story in two distinct tracks involving the protagonist and the antagonist and ensured that their respective tracks often ran into each other and had almost equal meat. That the final showdown between the two didn’t feel forced or rushed. It was the only logical ending that the two stories could have had as they built up simultaneously.

It must also be noted that both the hero and the villain’s story was catapulted by real reasons, and drama. The fact that they had superpowers was only a matter of coincidence. Even if they didn’t have the superpowers, the story would still pan out well enough. That is one of the biggest strengths of the film. It has the power to stand as a well-throughout and rewarding drama even if the superhero elements are cut out of it.     

Malayalam films are always superlative in terms of their performances and Minnal Murali is no different. Tovino Thomas leads from the front. The character’s confusion at attaining the superpowers, his frustrations at his power being of little use to him in elevating his overall social condition, and his gradual realization of who his father truly was and what kind of a man he wanted Jaison to be is brought out beautifully by Thomas in a nuanced, layered and often hilarious performance. The fact that he looks every bit like a superhero only adds to the charm of his performance. 

Guru Somasundaram as Shibu is heart-breaking. I have never been this involved with an antagonist in recent superhero films and have never felt this confused about how to feel about a villain in a film for a long time. This just goes on to show how wonderful his performance was and how well-written his character was. While Shibu had his heart in the right place and was truly a tortured soul, the path that he took after attaining the superpowers defined him and made him the evil that he turned out to be. He could have done 100 different things, but he chose to do evil and that is what mattered in the end.

Having said that, the childish simplicity and sweet demeanor that Guru depicted in every scene that he shared with the character of Usha were heart-warming and beautiful. The most potent of them all was his last dialogue with her and will remain etched in my memory for a long time. Shibu never tried to force Usha into accepting him when he easily could have. On the contrary, he wanted to win her love through effort and sweet pursuance and this attitude of his was at the core of the conflict that he was up against.

The only downside to Minnal Murali is its terrible visual effects and the subtle Hindu-bashing that has become the norm of every film that is made by the so-called liberals and progressive people. While the film must have had a low budget, the visual rendering of most of the superhero shots was so pathetic that it raised questions about the technical team’s prowess in rendering visual effects.

It is the only thing that momentarily takes you out of the experience and makes you question what you are seeing. I have seen films with lesser budgets achieve better visual effects. The makers could also have been intelligent about how they approached the superhero bits and how they used the visual effects. Reimagining certain scenes might have negated the problem to a certain extent. But then there is no way of tip-toeing around the visual effects in a superhero film.

Minnal Murali is a must watch. It is an emotionally and thematically rich rendering of a simple story with bravura performances by the ensemble cast. With a bigger budget and better visual effects, this might just have been the seminal Indian superhero film.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars) 

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