Moothon Movie Review: An Enigmatic Nivin Pauly Stuns You With a Career-Best Act in Geetu Mohandas’ Haunting Sophomore Film
Moothon Movie Review (Photo Credits: File image)

Moothon Movie Review (Review Based on the Screening at MAMI 2019): Mulla, a kid who has just stepped into teenage, wants to look for his elder brother, whom he refers to as Moothon (affectionate Lakshwadeep Malayali slang for elder brother). But her Moothon has left their hometown, Lakshwadeep, for Mumbai years ago when Mulla was an infant. Mulla doesn't even have a picture of his. No one knows the exact reason why he left the place, with the rumour that he left because of a broken affair with a neighbour girl Amina (Melissa Raju Thomas) being the only persistent one. Moothon Movie Review: Manju Warrier, Vicky Kaushal and Anjali Menon Shower Praises for Nivin Pauly Starrer.

Even Mulla's foster guardian, Moosa (Dileesh Pothan), who is frustrated with taking care of Mulla, doesn't tell him what happened to his brother. When he finds no source to get the right answers, Mulla runs away from the islands using Moosa's boat, with only Amina's number in hand. While the boat doesn't reach the mainland, Mulla manages to reach Mumbai. His pursuit for his Moothon gets him to the dreary lanes of Kamathipura where he meets Rosy (Sobhita Dhulipala), a prostitute who is separated from her son, Bhai (Nivin Pauly), the local don and junkie, and Salim (Shashank Arora), Bhai's conniving right-hand man.

Moothon, directed by Geetu Mohandas, is a film that pulls the rug off your feet when you come in with certain expectations with regards to what the trailers promised you or seeing the stars in the film, especially the main one. Moothon is gritty, Moothon is grim, there are many moments in the film that would make you look the other way. But Moothon is also a coming-of-age story, okay, make that two stories, details of which I don't want to divulge here. Even better is the fact that, in that muck where Moothon takes you in, there is a story of love, a human connect, which is what makes this Geetu Mohandas film so special.

When I look back at the film, I found the first act to be decent. The less-explored locales of Lakshwadeep add a quaint charm to the film, and the subtle hints played around Mulla's sexuality were quite interesting. When the movie shifts to Mumbai and to the lanes of Kamathipura, there is a sense of deja vu feeling there. I mean, in how many films we have seen a child sees his or her world hit hard on finding how cruel the world can be, where flesh is being traded. From the famous Salaam Bombay to last year's Love Sonia, you have seen films in a similar setting. Moothon Trailer: Nivin Pauly's Menacing Avatar in This Dark Tale Will Leave You Shocked (Watch Video).

There are moments in Moothon, that make you shiver in trepidation, like any interaction that Mulla seeks out with any human in there, be it an adult or kid. The scene where Bhai makes Mulla massacre a goat is perhaps Moothon's way of telling that the kid's innocence has been lost forever. Still, you can't get rid of the sense of familiarity in those portions.

Here's where Geetu first pulls the rug off your feet with the first twist, that plays with your expectation in giving what you may think would happen, and then pulling a surprise from that moment. Once that's done, Moothon's most beautiful portion begins - a gay love story involving a mute Ameer (Roshan Mathew) who returns to Lakshawadeep from Mumbai for an arranged marriage, but has his heart set elsewhere. This whole portion acts as a subplot in Moothon, but it deserved its own whole movie.

There is a maturity in the way this gay track is handled, using a subtle sense of intimacy and humour, but also hinting you of the doom that lies ahead. The intimacy is handled in a beautiful manner, and it gets you, no matter what your orientation is. There are some lovely moments in the track, like when Ameer tells his lover about pigeons in Mumbai, and the latter, who lives in a place where hordes of fish could jump straight into your boat, is fascinated on hearing about what is an ordinary bird for any of us. Or maybe what fascinated him more is the very idea of seeing these pigeons with his loved one.

There are touches of Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight in some places, but overall, it is perhaps the best love story of the year, and this is a straight man talking.

Even when the track is over, and you get back to Mulla and Bhai in Mumbai, it leaves a lasting impact on both the viewer and to where Moothon is heading. It makes you realise that every character we see are caged in their own circumstances from where there is no escape.

Watch The Trailer of Moothon below:

Geetu's direction is on exemplary mode here, making me rue that I never got the chance to watch her earlier effort, Liar's Dice, that starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Geethanjali Thapa (who won a National Award for her performance). It is to her credit that she handled the scenes that featured heartfelt bonding, and the interactions that displayed revolting behaviour with the same kind of dexterity.

Geetu gets ample support in her husband Rajeev Ravi, whose frames seamlessly makes the transition from capturing the lovely greenish-blue hues of Lakshwadeep waters to revelling in the claustrophobic streets of the metropolitan city. Have a little concern about the editing though; not sure if it was deliberate, but some scenes make a very jarring jump to the next without letting us close into the context of the sequence.

The Performances

I have really enjoyed Nivin Pauly's work in Malayalam cinema, especially in films like Neram, Thattatinu Marayathu, Premam, Bangalore Days, Oru Vadakkan Selfie, 1983 etc. At the same time, I felt there is something that holds the actor back when it comes to performing roles that have serious gravitas in them. Even though Nivin has improved exceedingly well as a performer over the year, that doubt still sustained in my mind. Well, not any more!

For Nivin Pauly gives a career-best performance in Moothon, that should put him as the frontrunner for the National awards next year (along with Vijay Sethupathi in Super Deluxe). That is, if real acting is a requisite any more for the jury. That's how great Nivin is in the film. I could really see him giving himself completely to Geetu's vision, and the results speak for themselves. It is a gutsy performance, and I am surprised that Nivin didn't hesitate to take such a grey role, in spite of the kind of popularity he enjoys back in Kerala. Speaking more about his act is a kind of injustice to the film, but there is one scene that I have to mention here. It has him check himself out in the mirror and be pleased with what he sees there. The gamut of emotions that pass through his face is simply mesmerising.

Sanjana Dipu is an excellent find and gives a class act, and I really hope to see her in more films. Roshan Mathew came off as a surprise; I knew him to be talented after watching his earlier films like Aanandam (that has Nivin in a cameo), Orayiram Kinakkalal and Koode. Here, the actor expresses so much with just the twinkle in his eyes and without uttering a word. And when he utters one, it truly breaks our hearts realising what it signifies. A bravura performance that should open more avenues for the young actor.

Shashank Arora is suitably impressive, bringing a manic kind of energy in a very despicable role. Sobhita Dhulipala's character kind of feels underwritten, when compared to the rest, but the actress is too good as the uncouth, but lissome sex-worker. Dileesh Pothan is terrific; he is truly one of Malayalam cinema's best finds of this decade, doing wonders both as an actor and director. I also want to credit Nivin, Dileesh and co. in pulling off the Lakshwadeep slang so convincingly. Maheshinte Prathikaaram and Ezra fame Sujith Shankar delivers a huge surprise in a brief appearance.

Yay!

- Nivin Pauly

- The Rest of the Actors

- Geetu Mohandas' Exemplary Direction

- The Framing

- The Subplot

Nay!

- The Sense of Familiarity in the Mumbai Portions

- Some Scenes Feel Stretched Out

- A Few Editing Cuts Feel Jarring

Final Thoughts

In a Q&A session at the end of the screening, Geetu Mohandas revealed that the theatrical cut of Moothon will be different to that of what I saw at MAMI 2019. I don't know how different it would be, but what I saw at that special screening was a truly haunting tale of love and loss of innocence, whose impact stays with you long after the credits roll out. With an excellent cast led by Nivin Pauly in a terrific nick and a gutsy premise, Moothon make me a proud as a Malayali in seeing that how Malayalam Cinema is back to pushing boundaries these days - both geographically and storytelling-wise!

Rating:4.0