Vismayam: Another Mohanlal Masterclass
Vismayam (2016) penned and directed by Chandra Shekhar Yeleti and starring Mohanlal and Goutami, is an emphatic assertion of age-old Indian values. The movie unequivocally proclaims that love’s labours are never lost; the wages may be delayed but never denied.
The first part of the movie is admittedly uninspiring and seems to drag at times; however, the brilliant climax more than makes up for that and turns the movie into an enjoyable and satisfying repast. The climax is powerful and inspiring; yes, almost everyone who watches the movie would know from the beginning at least a part of the climax. It is obvious that the obvious is painstakingly circumvented and side-stepped to make the climax telling and impressive. However, rather than spoiling the thrill and fun, this foreknowledge of the climax spurs the spectator on during the early moments of ennui and exhaustion.
Mohanlal proves once again why he is hailed the Complete Actor. He successfully embodies the inner conflicts of a middle-class family man caught between uncompromising philosophy and idealism on the one hand and practical constraints of the mundane existence on the other. His face looks more wrinkled and aged than ever probably to make that welcome metamorphosis from super-human to mere-and-more-human more convincing and sure; but as always he is super-brilliant and inspires and lifts the movie with his own inimitable ‘Lalisoms’ (forgive the pun!). Undoubtedly another complete performance from the Complete Actor.
The movie’s commitment to values is unmistakeable and sincere. Amid the New-Gen frenzy, Vismayam provides a welcome return to those age-old, honoured Indian middle-class values. The movie reiterates and affirms, even to a fault, that all is not lost. The innate goodness and virtue of even a little girl can make the world a far better place to live in. Mahitha stands out for what she represents and upholds. A cynic might argue that her goodness is stretched beyond limits of endurance, but that can be forgiven, for, sometimes too much delight, dance and frolic (as is the norm in most New-Gen movies) at the expense of instruction and values is disgusting. Vismayam, meaning amazement, as title, gains significance on these grounds. Indian aestheticians would know that Vismaya is a Sthayibhava, corresponding to Adbhuta rasa.
Apart from family values, the film also tries, rather unsuccessfully, to impart certain parochial and political, even gendered ‘values’. Swachch Bharat is referred to more than once, and the larger than life size cut out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, glaring rather indiscreetly at the audience against the backdrop of a dishevelled and helpless hero, tells us what these ‘values’ are and why they are there.
For a perfectionist, the movie is a miserable failure. For the art aficionado and the connoisseur, the movie offers very little. But despite all the apparent flaws, one is tempted to give a positive verdict to the movie, thanks largely to that wonderful climax and the adherence to and affirmation of values; not to forget Lalettan’s dalliance with greatness and Mahitha, the little angel’s cute, innocent countenance.