Varane Avashyamund — The Modern Family
When thinking of family feel good movies to watch, Malayalam has one director to look for; the veteran director Sathyan Anthikad. Without massive action sequences or larger than life story lines, he always found a way to tug at your heart strings with relatable characters and situational comedy. As his son Anoop Sathyan makes his debut, we have nothing lesser to expect. Does he deliver?
Varane Avashymunud is the story of a young girl Nikitha and a retired army major Unnikrishanan. While there are lots of other supporting characters and cast from the story, these are the characters who go through anything resembling a character arc through the storyline and hence they own the story.
Nikitha as we meet her, is in the process of interviewing candidates for arranging herself a marriage. She and her mother Neena, a French teacher has been living in a Chennai apartment for some time now. There are new people coming into the apartment in the form of two brothers are their caretaker aunt and a retired major. How they interact with each other and influence each other forms rest of the story.
Kalyani Priyadarshan and Suresh Gopi play the central characters in their drama. Kalyani for her debut has surely played her part and looks and feels suited for most scenes she is in. To have combination scenes with veteran actress Shobana and to pull them off is no small achievement. Suresh Gopi makes a comeback with a reserved character playing a role which goes for comedic relief for most of it’s parts and marvels at it. It is different from the many roles Malayalam cinema audience will remember him for, but this one is memorable on it’s own.
Shobana is another actor who makes a comeback in this movie and she is absolutely gorgeous. She plays a bold mother character and she has aced and owned every scene she is in. Whether she is taking care of boy, quarelling with her young daughter or grown up romancing an army major, she takes the cake.
Anoop also ropes in his father’s favorite KPAC Lalitha and she does an amazing job with whatever she has got. She manoeuvres most of the movie with comedy and reacting to things, but when she gets her moment in the limelight, she grabs it with both hands and shows why is she is the best in the business for these roles. Another veteran actress Urvashi plays a small but significant role for the movie, she impresses as usual with comedic timing and with the same demeanour somehow pulling off the emotionally hefty scenes.
It seems like I’m forgetting someone, Dulquer Salman as Bibeesh P/Fraud who adds to the son-daughter star power here (also producing the movie). But it did seem like he did not belong in the story at all. His story, even though going through ups and downs does not materialise into anything relevant and he does not change in anyway through the storyline. He is shown to be very resourceful and a quick thinker, even though he is never actually shown using any of that in moments that matter. There are also other characters like the one played by director Lal Jose who showed in two scenes and then disappeared with no resolution whatsoever. There are other two directors, Major Ravi and Johny Antony who play comedic relief side characters have done their roles on offer.
Anoop has choosen to tell a modern story through Varane Avashyamund. The same old relatable characters and tugging the heart storylines, but this time they meet through whatsapp, eat with Swiggy, marry through websites and break up with a text. The story begins very slowly with a barrage of jokes, slapstick and otherwise which makes one wonder if this is a standup act. It picks up pace half an hour into the movie, with the introduction of the character of Suresh Gopi. He leads the movie from then on and the jokes find a character to base off on and relate to, which was lacking in all of the ones that came before.
There are threads that do not make any sense in the movie, like the one for Bibeesh P/Fraud. Dulquer Salman is introduced into the story with a relationship story with Wafa Khatheeja Rahman, they are in a relationship, go through certain things only to break up. The couple share no chemistry on screen and there are no moment in the entire screenplay where you believe that they will end up together. If anything, the screenplay does convince that Bibeesh P does not love her either, so this might be the best for everyone 🤷♂️. As Wafa’s character moves away, Bibeesh’s character is back where he started and the event does not make any impact on any of his decisions further.
The pacing is slow, but it’s entirely possible that it is designed to be slow. It comes moments comedic and emotional that are inserted one after the other, so as to keep you engaged throughout. In a day and age where some movies are just caricatures of people talking over alcohol, Anoop has managed to make a movie without any smoking or alcohol scenes and that does deserve applause 👏. It’s the definition of a family movie, one you can take all your family members to.
Spoilers. I wonder how things would have been different in this section.
As mentioned in the review, Bibeesh’s love story did not make sense in the movie and could have been removed altogether. That would have given him far lesser scenes to play in effectively making it a cameo, but Hey! Better than just shoehorning in scenes. What do we do with all this space now?
One thing I was entirely dissatisfied with, is the use of Shobana in the movie. Even while she owns every scene she is in, she is given no obstacle to go across or any character arc to go through. She starts the movie as a bold, self assured, confident character and ends the movie the same. There were subtle hints at an arc, but none of those materialize at the end. Neena is a divorcee who had to left her husband because of domestic abuse. She falls in love with Major Unnikrishnan, a mild spoken retired army major and this disrupts her daughter’s relationship. While the mother and daughter are in a fight of sorts for some part of the movie, Nikitha gets over it with some monologues with other characters, Neena does not do anything as such just looking smug. While Nikitha accuses Neena of not caring for her, for someone else looking after her more than she does, it does look like it warrant some kind of action from her, but just doesn’t.
There is an overuse of nostalgia in some parts of the movie. I mean, I get that these are veteran actors with a status in Malayalam cinema. But relying actual set pieces on this nostalgia, would make the movie dependent on it’s time and history. When it does fourth wall breaking with characters comparing Neena to actress Shobana, I was intrigued at first but it got me out of the movie and the trick got old really fast.
In the last phase of the movie, Nikitha sets up a classical dance show for her mother Neena and Major Unnikrishnan. Moments later, we learn that Neena has also booked a seat for Major Unnikrishan tricking Nikitha. So, now there are three seats in all and only the Major knows of this. For someone who has gotten around his fears of talking and knows the turmoils between Nikitha and Neena, I would be sure that he would call up Nikitha and they would attend the show together as a family. But doesn’t end up happening, the extra seat is never discussed and movie goes in for a cheap comedy stunt at the end. The thought of them coming together as a family in the last scene would have completed at least some part of their arcs.