“Malayankunju” is what you get when the creator is more invested in getting the story out there than presenting it in an engaging format. This brings to mind the recently released “Paka.” The movie followed the same format of avoiding an over-explanation and dramatization of the circumstances, but it still made sure that the audience was sufficiently engaged. “Malayankunju” failed to do the latter. However, the story had enormous potential to be as hard-hitting as it had set out to be, had it just taken the time to cater to the audience a wee bit. Let us take a look at what goes on in the story.
Anikuttan’s Past And The Events Before The Landslide
Let us be clear about one thing: “Malayankunju” is grounded and realistic and does not waste time. The real impact lies not in the narrative itself, but in the details of it all. The fact that the pace was a little uninteresting is completely secondary.
The film follows Anikuttan, a cranky electrician who lives in Mulavumpara with his mother. He lives in a room outside of his house and doesn’t look in the mirror when getting ready in the morning. He also strongly believes in caste. This shows up first when he pretends to accidentally knock down some sambar at a common eating area because the person who had eaten it before him was from a lower caste. During this very scene, he also tries to avoid disposing of his plate as this is traditionally considered a job for “lower” castes. While caste is still a very strong concept in India, in the setting of “Malayankunju,” it seems that Anikuttan is the one with a stronger bias in comparison to the people around him. There are other instances as well when this shows up, like when his mother tells his uncle that Anikuttan would not even have touched the snacks if people from another caste were working right there. Or when he openly hurled a casteist slur at his neighbor during a fight.
It is not clear if he was always so casteist or if it was a result of his past. During flashbacks, we see that his sister eloped with a person of a lower caste on her wedding day. Due to the shock, their father committed suicide by hanging himself. Anikuttan still holds on to that. In one scene, where he comes face-to-face with his sister, she asks him why he is unable to let go of the past since their mother has already forgiven her. But Anikuttan dismisses her and tells her that she should have said something before they sold their farm to get the funds for her wedding. That way, he could have buried their father next to his mother. But they couldn’t even do that now.
In the flashback, when Anikuttan’s father comes to know that his daughter had eloped, he says that it looks like he was forcing her to get married against her wishes, which was not the case. Should we take his word for it, it would mean that Sandhya was aware that her father would not agree to her marriage to a man of a lower caste, suggesting that their family had always been traditionalist like that. Anikuttan’s mother, Shantamma, seems to have a different point of view from her son. She has let go of the past and is in touch with her daughter. She also likes the neighbors and is happy when they welcome a new baby girl into their house. She gives the girl some gold, much to the ire of her son.
Anikuttan is not happy about the baby. Whenever she cries, like any newborn baby does, Anikuttan is annoyed as it breaks his concentration, and he is unable to work. Since the events of the film started with the arrival of the baby, we are guessing that it has to mean that since Anikuttan is unable to lose himself in his job like before, he is forced to think about and confront his past, which he had avoided doing before. Anikuttan despises the baby’s presence and does not hesitate to be petty. Like when he plays loud music in the middle of the night to drown out the baby’s crying, ultimately creating an inconvenience for everyone. But things change when Mother Nature herself decides to intervene. And it is as abrupt and dramatic as it sounds. A landslide in the area causes Anikuttan’s house to collapse and him to be caught under the debris, in a situation of life and death. And that’s when things take a turn for him.
‘Malayankunju’ Ending Explained: Does Anikuttan Get Rescued? Is Ponni Alive?
Anikuttan is trapped under the earth due to the landslide. He is hurt and in pain. He also finds that his neighbors have passed away. Anikuttan hallucinates that his father is alive and is tending to him. Throughout the whole thing, he keeps hearing the baby’s cries but initially thinks of it as one of his hallucinations, before figuring out that the baby is alive and somewhere around him. Ironically, the very sound of her crying that had irritated him to no end before was the sound he was desperately seeking, both as a way of finding something familiar and also as his one chance to be able to rescue someone. We are no therapists, but we did get a feeling that Anikuttan felt a certain sense of helplessness at not being able to protect what he cared for, which caused him to set up all those walls around him. But they start breaking down due to the landslide, literally and figuratively. After a lot of struggles, he finds Ponni, and luckily, a rescue team finds them as well. He is taken to a hospital and comes to know on the way that his mother is most likely dead. As he is recuperating, he sees his mother’s body. She had been found at the beginning of the rescue operation itself. Anikuttan refuses to see her one last time. Maybe the reason was guilt, for not having let her see Sandhya, due to his own stubbornness.
Anikuttan makes his way to the children’s ward to check on Ponni. The word ‘malayankunju’ means rebirth and retribution. The birth of Ponni was the start of a revamping of Anikuttan’s life. And the age-old principle that every destruction is the beginning of a new creation. When life as Anikuttan knows it completely collapses due to the landslide, it is a time of reckoning for him, about his past mistakes and how he must live his future, presumably as Ponni’s guardian. “Malayankunju” really required the audience to pay attention to the details to properly keep up with the film.
Final Thoughts: What Works and What Doesn’t For ‘Malayankunju’?
If the definition of “slice of life” was allowed to include some of the darker and more uncomfortable facets of it, we would get “Malayankunju.” It is not poor writing that the film suffers from. The script is watertight, but it gives the distinct sense of having been written for the characters themselves, rather than for an audience. Despite the severity of the situation, it was extremely uninteresting to watch Anikuttan’s struggles to rescue himself. While we understand the impact of his childhood memory of seeing a dead boar, we don’t understand if it had any other significance. We love it when films demand that the audience use their intelligence instead of spoon-feeding them everything. But this film borders on making the viewer feel like an unwelcome voyeur, simply because of the film’s lack of interest in hooking them in. We do want to tell our friends to watch this film, only because we want to know if we are alone in feeling the way we do or if we are right in our assessment of the makers’ intentions. The movie has occupied a certain part of our brains. Our guess is that this is the type of film that we will discover more and more about as time passes. And we look forward to it.
“Malayankunju” is a 2022 drama thriller film directed by Sajimon Prabhakar.