Bramayugam Movie Review: Mammootty has a knack for playing evil feudal lords with his award-winning turns in Vidheyan and Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha. With Bramayugam, the Malayalam superstar completes a sort of trilogy, as he transcends from inhuman feudal lords to a literally inhuman overlord. Rahul Sadashivan's fantasy supernatural thriller, Bramayugam, has Mammootty continue the spectacular form that he has been enjoying in recent times, and we are also enjoying this run of his. But it is not just the actor who is in the sublime form here; there is also a director who is in supreme control of his craft, complemented by a proficient technical team. Bramayugam Review: Netizens Hail Mammootty as ‘The Face of Indian Cinema’ Following His Riveting Performance in Rahul Sadasivan’s Horror Thriller.

Set in the 17th century, Thevan (Arjun Ashokan), a runaway paannan (a lower-caste folk singer), finds himself lost in a dangerous forest after losing his companion to a yakshi. He stumbles upon a derelict mana (mansion) lorded over by Manakkal Kodumon Potty (Mammootty), who takes him in as a 'guest.' The only other inhabitant, Potty's cook (Siddharth Bharatan), isn't too welcoming to Thevan's presence.

Watch the Trailer of Bramayugam:

The paannan soon realises that all is not right in the mana, from eerie sounds in the attic to suspicious graves near the house. More unsettling is his new master, who soon reveals himself to be far from human. As Thevan grasps the extent of his eternal entrapment, he realises the only escape lies with another soul sharing the house.

Using Horror as an Allegory

I loved Rahul Sadasivan's previous directorial, Bhoothakalam - a realistic tale of a dysfunctional mother-son relationship where the allegories of darkness take a literal horror form. His new film, Bramayugam, doesn't need to pretend to be something else to hide its horror elements; in fact, it is the other way around. The horror is there to camouflage the political commentary and caste politics. You can argue that Potty's mana is the country's deeply entrenched caste system from which there is no escape. Or political overlords' 'liberal' generosity of extending basic facilities to the less-privileged have blood-sucking strings attached. Bhoothakaalam Movie Review: Revathy and Shane Nigam Star in This Well-Acted ‘Horror’ Film That Frightens You With Its Realism.

A Still From Bramayugam

There are times when metaphors don't need to be deduced; it is boldly underlined, like in Bramayugam's gripping final act and in the sombre conclusion that boasts of a heavy subtext about the transference of power that continues its corruption on the way.

Folklore Come Alive

However, while it is fun nitpicking at what the film wants to convey, Bramayugam is still equally enjoyable as a dark muthasshikatha told in a very gripping manner. The plotline is an out-and-out folklore whose versions you may have heard in your childhood or read, and that piques our curiosity in this supernatural good vs evil tale, inhabited by yakshis and chaathansEven Mohanlal's recent Malaikkotai Vaaliban had that folklore-inspired narrative, but while that LJP film is a bit too abstract for its own good, Bramayugam is more accessible as a film. It never for once loses its momentum, maintaining that spooky quality right from the ominous opening scene set in the dark, crawly forest to the heart-pounding finale within the bowels of the mansion.

A Still From Bramayugam

Some character issues did creep into my mind while watching the film like Bramayugam is not clear of the extent of Potty's powers. In one scene, we are hinted that he knows everything that's happening in the mansion, like being privy to a spat between Thevan and the cook, but there are times when he seems oblivious to what the other two are up to.

The Three Varnas of the Mana

Otherwise, Rahul Sadasivan's screenplay, with some effective dialogues from TD Ramakrishnan, is mostly on point with the character definitions and what they bring about. Potty may act like an omnipotent overlord (with a secret masking his true nature) and is comfortable wielding power over his two subjects. But even a slight defiance from their end causes him to feel annoyed and furious, and he then either manipulates the situation (like cheating in a dice game) or uses violence to quell the rebellion.

A Still From Bramayugam

The cook who thinks he is above the paannan - later, we find out why - could represent the middle caste, who may think they are superior but are under the thumb of their overlords (as Thevan reminds him in one scene). With the paannan's character, the director deconstructed this age-old image built by Malayalam cinema about these happy-go-lucky paanans who just love to sing about the royals at any given opportunity, and instead show him as the terrified victim of a system where there's hardly an escape. Thevan thinks he knows his place but is caught in the powerplay, and he is the only know to know the corruption of power, being the biggest victim of the same. Bramayugam has only one female character, who is a seductive succubus. Ok, sorry, I don't know what to make of that, and I would have to scour over the Reddit pages to see if any context fits her.

A Still From Bramayugam

A Technical Joy

But Bramayugam might not have been as effective in its visual format if it was not for the support of some fantastic production design, lighting and sound design. The use of black-n-white frames, which faced some criticism when the trailer came out, is a brilliant choice because it allows the director to play with light and shadows, turning that eerie manor into this metaphorical devouring demon not willing to let go of its food. Shehnad Jalal's camera not only uses this aesthetic in a fine manner, but I also loved how he used the frames to build up the character's personalities, like using low angles to make Potty look imposing to his prisoners.

There are also some interesting transition and jump cuts that add to the spooky nature of the film (editing by Shafique Mohammed Ali). There are some creature effects which I don't want to spoil, but for a film that doesn't boast of a great budget, the visual effects used here are highly convincing. Let's also not forget Christo Xavier's contribution to the film in the form of a foreboding score, while the "Age of Madness" track that plays in the end credits is just too good.

A Still From Bramayugam

Mammootty Polichu!

As for the performances, a towering Mammootty easily eclipses everyone and everything, but then that's no one's fault, really. It is always a delight as a movie buff when Mammootty plays with negative shades, and Bramayugam's  Manakkal Kodumon Potty is easily one of his finest characters, not only in the grey shades but in every other shade. It feels awe to see him switch moods in an instant, from someone who feels patronising to donning a terrifying demeanour the next second, not to mention with excellent use of body language. It is an out-and-out malevolent show, and the superstar amps up the creep factor in the final scenes with aplomb. Also, special mention to his makeup team for making him look fearful even while looking all human. PS: there is an ox skull adorning Potty's wall, that is perhaps a meta nod to Mammukka's role in Vidheyan.

A Still From Vidheyan

After Chaaver, Arjun Ashokan once again plays this unwitting trapped victim and audience's POV, and he does a decent job showing the fear and anxiety into which his character is soaked. There are times when I felt he is holding back a bit too much in terms of intensity, especially in the climax, but otherwise, the film holds one of his better performances. Chaaver Movie Review: Kunchacko Boban-Tinu Pappachan's Film Offers Scattered Moments of Visual Brilliance in an Incohesive Political Narrative.

A Still From Bramayugam

Sidharth Bharathan fared better as the other trapped soul, who has his own agenda to be there and gets to do a lot more in the second half. Just wondering, though, was he dubbed by Alencier Ley Lopez? It surely felt like that. Amalda Liz only had two scenes and no dialogues, but she looks every bit the alluring but malicious yakshi she is supposed to be.

Final Thoughts

Bramayugam is an enthralling, moody, and gripping cinematic experience that impeccably captures the essence of its supernatural fantasy elements. The film gains a significant edge from its accomplished technical team and a commendably versatile Mammootty, whose recent foray into diverse roles is a treat for any Malayalam movie enthusiast. With Bhoothakalam and now Bramayugam, Rahul Sadasivan emerges as a filmmaker poised for a promising future (haven't seen his Red Rain, but hope to correct that soon). While Sadasivan is open to exploring various genres, I find myself selfishly yearning for more of his prowess in the horror genre, envisioning him as Malayalam Cinema's Ari Aster. Just don't be too abstract.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 15, 2024 11:00 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website