Bro Daddy movie review: Mohanlal and Prithviraj’s comic timing makes it work even when it does not

The film’s first half is funny and throws up some interesting turns, the effort to hide which is proving to be a strain while writing this review. The humour is not of the laugh-a-minute variety, and owes more to these situational twists than to wisecracks.

Anna MM Vetticad January 26, 2022 14:14:55 IST

2.5/5

John Kattadi (Mohanlal) was 24 years old when his son Eesho (Prithviraj Sukumaran) was born. The result: they have a bro-like relationship unlike conventional fathers and sons. Hence this film’s title, Bro Daddy.

It is no surprise that when Eesho has a secret, the first person he confides in is his father.

John’s best friend Kurian (Lalu Alex) and wife Elsy (Kaniha) have a daughter, Anna (Kalyani Priyadarshan). Despite murmurs from the two families about a possible marital alliance between them, Eesho and Anna seem painfully uninterested.

John’s wife too is Anna/Annamma (played by Meena). She is the next to hear of their boy’s secret. The labour that goes into hiding it from others and the manner in which it gets incrementally revealed to the world form the crux of this comedy flick.

Bro Daddy is directed by Prithviraj, and written by Sreejith N and Bibin Maliekal. The film’s first half is funny and throws up some interesting turns, the effort to hide which is proving to be a strain while writing this review. The humour is not of the laugh-a-minute variety, and owes more to these situational twists than to wisecracks.

The fact that the hero’s name, Eesho, is Malayalam for Jesus, and that two female characters share a name are cause for some initial mirth. These elements are thankfully not stretched beyond a point. It is a relief too that the script steers clear of bawdy jokes and misogyny, which is uncommon for a commercial Malayalam comedy these days.

When the writers go low is when Bro Daddy is most ineffective, such as in its preoccupation with Kurian’s bowel movements and Soubin Shahir’s character who objectifies, trivialises and others north Indians. Soubin’s scenes are not just jarring (barring a hilarious quip about biryani), they also interrupt the flow in the rest of this narrative.

Bro Daddy’s plot gradually loses momentum in the second half. In a scene in which an enraged Kurian is searching for John, the script detracts from the urgency of the situation with a decline in pace, annoying casualness (such as showing a hospital coolly giving out patient information) and a needless sidelight featuring a guest appearance by producer Antony Perumbavoor.

What truly works in Bro Daddy is Mohanlal and Prithviraj’s chemistry and excellent comic timing. It is nice to see the two stars using their gift in a clean film sans aggressive masculinity. Together, they sustain Bro Daddy even when its storyline gets progressively thin.

The one with the most substantial character graph is neither of them though, it is Kurian whose individual storyline is the best-rounded of all the roles in Bro Daddy. Actor Lalu Alex smoothly makes Kurian amusing, sweetly innocent and emotionally distraught by turns.

Although Kalyani, Meena and Kaniha are crucial to the storyline, they are not written with the detail invested in the characterisation of the men, nor given much to test their comedic skills.

Bro Daddy movie review Mohanlal and Prithvirajs comic timing makes it work even when it does not

Mohanlal and Prithviraj in a still from Bro Daddy.

Bro Daddy is Prithviraj’s second directorial venture. It is as different from his first, Lucifer, as satan is from angels. The latter was a grim political drama, this one is determinedly light.

To their credit, the writers are open about their intent. In places where a certain category of viewer may be looking for an in-depth examination of choice – to marry or not, to have or not have children, to carry forward a pregnancy or terminate it – no such profoundness is to be found in Bro Daddy. Fair enough. Every film has its own brief, this one’s is to elicit laughs and not be taken too seriously.

That said, Bro Daddy does aspire to be unobtrusively progressive and to some extent achieves that goal: the support Eesho gets from his parents and the primacy given to a woman’s wishes in a critical matter would, let’s face it, be rare in reality in a society as conservative as India’s.

Through their efforts to be liberal, the writers unwittingly reveal flashes of conservatism though. At a decisive plot point in Bro Daddy, John makes a commitment on Eesho’s behalf without consulting him, despite the life-changing effect that move could have on his son’s life. If you buy the film’s line that the father was forced to do what he did to extricate his offspring from a tricky situation, do note a later decision Kurian makes for Anna minus her permission, a development that stamps Bro Daddy’s approval on the proprietorial attitude Indian parents have towards their children.

The step Kurian takes is also written without an understanding of privacy, an individual’s right to decide what they wish to keep private without assumptions being made that they are ashamed of that information. Ironically, the scene is written to show Kurian’s respect for Anna’s choices and his disregard for societal disapproval.

The mood is set for Bro Daddy’s overall impact though with its opening credits running over a cartoon strip that emphasises John’s virility, John and Annamma’s youthfulness and their open flirtatiousness towards each other, accompanied by a song composed by Deepak Dev and sung pleasantly by Mohanlal and Prithviraj. The promise held out by that introduction remains fulfilled: Mohanlal and Prithviraj make Bro Daddy work even when it does not.

Rating: 2.5 (out of 5 stars)

Bro Daddy is streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Anna M.M. Vetticad is an award-winning journalist and author of The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic. She specialises in the intersection of cinema with feminist and other socio-political concerns. Twitter: @annavetticad, Instagram: @annammvetticad, Facebook: AnnaMMVetticadOfficial

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