(The following review is free of spoilers.)
Debut Malayalam film director Dileesh Pothan’s Maheshinte Prathikhaaram (English: Mahesh’s Revenge) stars Fahad Fasil as Mahesh Bhavana, a photographer who runs a studio with his father in the city of Idukki, Kerala. He is very attached to his father. Mahesh has a childhood sweetheart named Soumya, whom he plans to marry soon. But things don’t work out as he had hoped for and takes his life in a completely unexpected direction. And that’s not all; a small sub-plot involving a fight between two individuals from his locality causes a sort of “butterfly effect” that considerably alters his life. The film is apparently based on a true event and informs you of this during the title credits.
This is pretty much the plot of the film. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t interesting. Actually, there is a lot more going on it that, if I described each and every event that happens, I would be ruining the fun for someone who is about to watch it for the first time. But, I think it wouldn’t be a problem if I went ahead and told you something about the character of Mahesh and along with that, the genius of the actor who portrays him. Those who care deeply about cinema are very well aware of the fact that many of the greatest films made in the history of cinema aren’t about some guy who has the ability to fight and bring down 20 guys with a single punch. It’s about ordinary individuals; people just like you and me: people with real feelings; people who feel shame and embarrassment and experience defeat in their lives. Mahesh is one such person.
He is one of those truly genuine and kind-hearted human beings who experiences shame, defeat, anger, frustration and sadness. Now, I’m sure many of us have gone through at least one of Mahesh’s experiences at least once in their lives. If you have, you’ll be able to relate to it much more than the others. But Mahesh isn’t somebody who gets depressed and spends numerous days in his bed sulking because of the unpleasant situations that he is put through. You feel pity for him and wish this didn’t happen to him. But Mahesh isn’t seeking anyone’s sympathy. He is armed with an attitude that would get him through any tough situation. You feel inspired by the way he handles a certain situation that involves Soumya. Mahesh isn’t the protagonist from 500 Days of Summer; he would call him a cry-baby if he ever crossed paths with him.
Despite being a Malayali, I must admit that I’ve not seen too many films starring Fahad. But I’m very impressed with whatever I’ve seen so far. It was only two weeks ago that I admired his performance in a beautiful little film called Monsoon Mangoes (which came and went) and now this. He is not trying to be another Mammotty or another Mohanlal. He is only trying to be Fahad and that’s what I love about him. His acting style is so natural and his mannerisms put a smile on your face. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the immensely talented supporting actors, especially Soubin Shahir who plays Crispin. Soubin’s near deadpan delivery of some of the lines are applause-worthy. Be it his quips about Lalettan films and Mammookka films or my favorite, “Shwasakosham vanno?”, he is a delight to watch. And Alancier Lay who plays Baby is equally brilliant. His “CPR” scene will make you laugh so hard. (I actually saw this after a moderately heavy lunch and I was worried that everything might spill out.) For me, Alancier is the new Innocent.
Also, the actresses Anusree (who plays Soumya) and Aparna Balamurali (who plays Jimsy) have done their parts well. I think it’s time Bollywood actresses learnt a lesson or two from them. The title of this film might mislead some into thinking that this is some action film about a guy who wants to take revenge on someone for some misdeed that has been committed against him. But it’s not an action film and it’s not a “mass” film. It is indeed about a guy who wants his revenge but the “revenge” in the title carries a hidden meaning as well and it will be revealed to you once you see the film. This is one of the best Malayalam films I’ve seen and I’m glad to see some real change taking place in Malayalam cinema today. I’m quite excited to see the rise of some new filmmakers who are armed with some fresh ideas that we haven’t seen before. Maheshinte Prathikaram takes a simple premise and creates something remarkable out of it. Who says you need to have big and complex ideas to make a good film?