TIFF 2019 Movie Review: ‘Moothon’

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Geetu Mohandas’ second film ‘Moothon’ is practically impossible to label neatly. It is as much a Hindi film as it is Malayali. It features one of Malayalam cinema’s biggest commercial heroes, but is nothing like the quintessential Nivin Pauly films he’s known for. Even the film’s crime adventure image is inaccurate, since it is also a drama, a tragedy and so much more. All of this may sound messy, but it is also what makes ‘Moothon’ a memorable experience.

The story starts with Mulla – a teenager obsessed with the idea of elder brother Akbar, who left the village years ago. Only acquainted with the mysterious Akbar through hearsay, Mulla decides to sail to Mumbai in the hopes of finding the missing sibling. The journey, however, is not smooth sailing, since the teen gets pushed into the city’s underbelly right upon arrival.

‘Moothon’ is a decent crime film with several plot twists, even if most of the supporting actors feel two-dimensional. But it’s even better when it steps away from being a crime film. Exploring the idea of good and bad influences, Mohandas turns what seems like yet another Mumbai underworld film into so much more. She takes a detour from the genre to tell you a story about religious guilt, societal judgement and self-identity. The film

also features a very compelling, heartbreaking love story, shot beautifully on the shorelines of Lakshadweep. All these threads connect to show the journey of Akbar and Mulla, how their experiences formed who they were, who they had become and who they want to be.

Nivin Pauly navigates through a drastic character arc as Akbar. Effortlessly nailing the gentler side of his character with his charm, Pauly also manages to be unexpectedly menacing as the hardened tough criminal. Roshan Mathew plays Ameer with a tenderness and charisma that makes it very hard to take your eyes off him. Sobhita Dhulipala and Shashank Arora are given one-note characters and perform them well enough. But the star of the film is Sanjana Dipu, who has transformed for her role.

‘Moothon’ may not be a perfect film, but it is magical in all the right moments. The film shines when it breaks expectations to tell the story it wants to share. If action and suspense isn’t your thing, watch it for the glorious sea. If the love story isn’t your cup of tea, stay for the social critique. And if none of that appeals to you, there’s always the mermaid.

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