Minnal Murali a Local Super Hero Movie Review!
Tovino Thomas’ superpower is his super-charm. Apparently that is not enough to save the village of Kurukkanmoola from grave danger, so director Basil Joseph in collaboration with writers Arun Anirudhan and Justin Mathew have transformed him into Jaison Varghese who is struck by lightning one night, develops superhuman strength and rechristens himself Minnal Murali (Lightning Murali), saviour of this little hamlet in the Kerala countryside.
Until this sensational turn of events, Jaison is an ordinary hard-working Indian youngster who fancies himself to be a cool dude, helps in his father’s tailoring business and dreams of leaving the country for greener pastures in the Western hemisphere where he believes he will make big money since “tailors are in great demand in America – you see, no one knows how to sew there since they wear only readymade garments”. If you get a stitch in your stomach from laughing at that rural Indian image of the US, be warned: there is more of that earthy wit to come.
Jaison matures overnight when he realises that his people need him. It takes a while for him to get there though. Jaison’s journey from over-grown baby to full-grown messiah of his homeland is bursting at the seams with humour, heartbreak – not all his own – and high drama.
Basil’s film may be a tribute to the Hollywood superhero genre and made on a larger budget than is the norm with Malayalam cinema, but it is also everything that the Malayalam New New Wave of the past decade is loved for across India: universally themed yet culturally rooted, visually beautiful yet not allowing its packaging to swallow its soul, observant and insightful as much about the small community in which it is set as it is about the human condition.
In Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC parlance, Minnal Murali is a superhero origin story. The fight sequences are well-conceived and executed, but the film takes its own time to arrive at them. In fact, the first extended passage in which the lead uses his newly acquired physical prowess comes over an hour into the narrative. Wise choice, since the wait is worth it.
Producer Sophia Paul recruited Jallikattu’s acclaimed stunt choreographer Supreme Sundar, an Indian cinema veteran, for her film along with action director Vlad Rimburg whose CV in Hollywood includes his work on the TV series Lucifer. The result of this investment combined with the consistent writing and direction of Minnal Murali are action scenes that are an uncommon blend of tragedy, comedy and suspense.
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It was waiting to happen: a superhero movie that hyper-localises the grandiose themes of Hollywood tentpole productions and mines wonderment from feats of strength and bravery. In Minnal Murali, crusaders emerge on the short walk between the low-rise dwelling and the grocery store.
Basil Joseph’s entertaining Malayalam-language movie, which is out on Netflix, has an improvisational feel that matches the origin story of an unlikely saviour. In a small town in a pre-cellphone era, the tailor Jaison (Tovino Thomas) is pining for his lost love Bincy (Sneha Babu) and raring to leave the place for good. Also in the vicinity is Shibu (Guru Somasundaram), who has never lost hope of reuniting with his childhood sweetheart Usha (Arya Salim).
The screenplay, by Arun Anirudhan and Justin Mathew, inventively solders the fates of Jaison and Shibu. Both men are struck by lightning (the minnal of the title) on the same day, both develop super-human abilities, and both strive to mend their broken hearts.Despite being overstretched, the saga of two superheroes for the price of a single ticket benefits from being pitched at the right scale. Minnal Murali faithfully reflects the wide-eyed and knee-high perspective of Jaison’s nerdy nephew Josemon (Vasisht). The stakes are low, the visual effects are lo-fi and the superheroic actions are within reason. Light observational comedy surrounds the actors before matters come to a head for Jaison and Shibu.
In a clever touch, Jaison isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the room and needs Josemon’s help in figuring out the superhero mythos. Tovino Thomas plays the local crusader with a modest charm that befits the movie’s local flavour.Guru Somasundram is an equally good fit as Shibu, who has been scarred by a series of tragedies. Among the noteworthy secondary characters are Aju Varghese as Jaison’s mean brother-in-law, Baiju Santhosh as the flat-footed police station chief, and Femina George as the feisty karate coach ‘Bruce Lee’ Biji.
The 159-minute movie justly sets itself up for a sequel. Perhaps Biji, who doesn’t need a superhero to make her way around, will figure more prominently in the Minnal Cinematic Universe as Jaison’s high-kicking partner.
You know you have entered a Kerala landscape as soon as the first word is uttered before the first image appears on screen in Minnal Murali – “Hallo, hallo” pronounced in precisely the way a Malayali would say it.
From an industry that lifted the curtain on 2021 with the sleeper hit The Great Indian Kitchen aka Mahaththaya Bharatiya Adukkala, Minnal Murali is the perfect Christmas gift: thoughtful, sorrowful and funny by turns, and teeming with hope. So tell us, Basil, when can we expect Minnal Murali Part 2?
Minnal Murali is streaming on Netflix.
- Release Date24 December 2021
- GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy, Superhero
- Duration2h 38min
- CastTovino Thomas, Guru Somasundaram, Vasisht Umesh, Aju Varghese, Femina George, Baiju Santhosh
- DirectorBasil Joseph
- MusicSushin Shyam, Shaan Rahman, Sushin Shyam
- ProducerSophia Paul
- ProductionWeekend Blockbusters
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