Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Mahesh’s Revenge) is a delightful Malayalam Comedy-Drama starring Fahadh Faasil. I think this is actually only my third Fahadh Faasil film, but I have many of his recent films in my watch list. I loved him in Bangalore Days. Oh, my gosh when he revealed that huge tattoo! I hated him for most of the movie, and then he totally won me over in those emotional scenes. I really didn’t like him in Amen, but then his character was such a nebbish! He was true to the character, which was a character I didn’t like that much.
Mahesh, however was such an interesting character. As was the whole small town setting of the movie. I loved this peak into the Indukki area of Kerala, which has very tough women.
Like many Malayalam films, the entire first half meanders it’s way through character introductions and not a lot really happens until almost the interval. But I didn’t mind at all. I picked this movie to watch on a day that I had been watching news of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas. I relished getting away from it all to this beautiful small town in Kerala.
Mahesh has a photo “shop” where he takes passport photos, “Chin up. Shoulders down.” He’s a fixture taking photos at every wedding and funeral in town. He’s not very good. He has a long distance relationship with a girl he’s had a crush on since childhood, and then she gets another marriage offer from an NRI. Mahesh is passive. He doesn’t pursue the girl. He’s satisfied just taking passport photos.
And then there is an incredible cascade of arguments and spats that starts with a disagreement at a funeral and ends in a brawl. This whole sequence of one fight leading to a bike accident, to the next argument, and on and on was one of my favorites. It was very clever. One person’s ill temper leads to the next situation and so on.
And finally Mahesh gets drawn into a brawl with some rowdies from a nearby town and gets literally hit in the head — pushed into the metal bar of a rickshaw. He is so thoroughly trounced that his elderly father has to step in to say “enough” to the rowdy. Mahesh is humiliated and vows to go shoeless until he gets his revenge — throwing his flip flops away!
That’s the set up. This passive, happy to just go along in life guy, suddenly wakes up. And starts to make things happen. He meets a girl. He realizes he doesn’t really know how to take pictures, and learns to appreciate photography as art. And he does get his revenge, eventually.
The gentle story telling makes those couple of intense fight sequences all the more visceral. They felt very real. The final scuffle was so intense I cried out because I though someone had a broken limb and my son came out of his room to see if I was okay. “Oh. It’s just a movie.” LOL
What’s delightful is just letting this movie wash over you. I just loved the meandering gentle story telling. Learning about all the people in this small town, and especially the spunky girl Mahesh meets. Young actress Aparna Balamurali was absolutely fantastic as Jimsy! She’s blunt and speaks up for herself in a very straight forward way. “Love me if you’re brave enough.” Both the women in this film totally were able to make their own choices. Even the ex-girlfriend when presented with an arranged marriage offer is given free choice by her family.
The supporting cast was all universally great, too. I particularly liked the performances of Alencier Ley Lopez as Baby, Mahesh’s best friend who owns the next door shop, and Soubin Shahir as Crispin, Baby’s new employee.
Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the Malayalam National Film Award and I can see why. Director Dileesh Pothan and screenwriter Syam Pushkaran transported me to Kerala for a few blessed hours. The cinematography and music were very nice too. There was a flash mob scene with Aparna which I though was a brilliant way to have a big dance number in a natural feeling film like this. It totally fit her character!