Maniyarayile Ashokan movie review: Dulquer Salmaan looks hot in a Navy uniform — that’s it

After the initial 30 minutes or so, Maniyarayile Ashokan is just a long stretch of nothingness.

Anna MM Vetticad September 04, 2020 10:14:34 IST


Language: Malayalam

Dulquer Salmaan is hot.

He looks hot in T-shirts and formal shirts.

He looks hot with short hair and with long hair.

He looks hot in a big city, a small town or a village.

He looks hot wearing a lungi, a kasavu mundu or a suit.

He looks hot in all seasons, in different parts of India and the world.

He looks hot mouthing Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and English lines.

In case you had any nagging doubts, it can be confirmed that he looks hot dressed in an Indian Navy uniform too. Planet Mercury-level hot, my friends. 

DQ is hot. Full stop. 

The confirmation of Dulquer’s hotness in a cameo that he spends mostly attired in a Navy outfit is the only worthwhile takeaway from Shamzu Zayba’s Maniyarayile Ashokan.

At the concept level Maniyarayile Ashokan might well have sounded promising enough to yield the sort of quiet slice-of-life cinema that has been the Malayalam film industry a.k.a. Mollywood’s calling card among non-Malayalis for decades now, and its mainstay through the past decade of what has been widely recognised as its New Wave. Here, after all, is a hero – the Ashokan of the title – so unrelentingly teased, even taunted, for his singleton status that he becomes obsessed with getting married to the point of psychological harm. The marriage fixation in Malayali society and Indian society at large, the social pressure on single people, gender segregation, mental health and regressive customs revolving around combating horoscopes are all themes the film touches upon that could have been explored through a simple story while offering the audience snapshots of rural Kerala. After all, the likes of  Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum did not tell visibly complicated tales, yet look how beautifully layered they turned out to be. 

It is not hard then to imagine why DQ saw enough potential in Maniyarayile Ashokan’s premise to come on board as its co-producer (along with the leading man, Jacob Gregory). Did he not look at the completed script though? Unlike his debut venture under the Wayfarer Films banner – 2020’s sweet Varane Avashyamundu (Groom Wanted) starring Shobana, Suresh Gopi and Kalyani Priyadarshan alongside him – Maniyarayile Ashokan fizzles out after its first half hour. 

The film’s opening shot offers a spectacular aerial view of the Kerala countryside accompanied by a fable-like voiceover. And the early scenes of Ashokan (Jacob Gregory) hanging out with his buddies Ratheesh (Krishna Sankar) and Shaiju (Shine Tom Chacko) are funny. Soon the gentle ribbing about Ashokan’s bachelorhood turns to mocking, he finds himself in a particularly hurtful situation of the kind that is inevitable when you are seeking a marital alliance arranged by your parents, and we can sense the weight on his mind. 

Maniyarayile Ashokan then rapidly unravels as it becomes clear that the script does not know what to do with itself. It turns out that a woman in the village (Shyama played by Anupama Parameswaran) is in love with Ashokan, for no particular reason. We gather that she has seen him bathing by the village pond, and since those glimpses have prompted her to paint him and fantasise about him, I could only assume that she likes men who fear swimming since Ashokan’s quirk is that he bathes using water out of a  bucket while his friends frolic in the pond. 

By now the film has lost all energy. Much time is spent blowing an artificial breeze through Ms Parameswaran’s hair that is here not the bee-hive-like curly mass it was in her debut film Premam. Another stretch of time later, Ashokan marries a tree. 

Those familiar with how horoscopes are matched before marriage and how seriously the results are taken in deeply traditionalist Indian homes would be aware of the recommendation offered to individuals whose stars predict a terrible fate for their maiden spouse: marry a tree to cheat fate. If you hope at this point that Maniyarayile Ashokan will offer some deep insight into this practice, you will be further disappointed. 

Seriously, after the initial 30 minutes or so, Maniyarayile Ashokan is just a long stretch of nothingness. It is lifeless, listless, senseless and pointless.

There is zilch to recommend this film unless you count DQ’s brief cameo as Ashokan’s cousin who is an officer in the Indian Navy, an even briefer appearance by the stunning Anu Sithara who has nothing to do but look stunning here (a job she does well while a fun song titled 'Unnimaya' sung by DQ and Jacob plays in the background), a couple of minutes with Nazriya Nazim and a slightly longer cameo by Sunny Wayne who is hilariously over-the-top in his brief minutes on screen.

Frankly, buying posters of Dulquer Salmaan and Anu Sithara would be a better investment than expending 1 hour and 50 minutes of your life on Maniyarayile Ashokan.

Maniyarayile Ashokan is streaming on Netflix India.

Rating: 0.25 stars

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