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‘Moothon,’ has managed to be one of the best films of the decade for me. It’s a never-before told story, with an impressive cast and brilliant crew.
I have never been a fan of action-thrillers, so I was pleasantly surprised to be completely bowled over by one. ‘Moothon’ is a work of art that tells a raw and unique story in a way that is both beautiful and uncomfortable to face at the same time. The 2019 Nivin Pauly starrer was recently released on Zee5.
The story revolves around the journey of a child, Mulla (played by Sanjana Dipu) from an idle life in Lakshadweep Islands to the chaos of Mumbai. Mulla sets out to search for his estranged brother or ‘moothon,’ Akbar.
The stark contrast between the two settings gives us a taste of the whirlwind that the rest of the film is going to be. The lens is then thrust into the fringes of our society, revealing the lives of many struggling characters, woven together in messy relationships.
Mulla is not aware of much about his moothon, other than the fact that he left the island long ago because of a broken heart. Mulla’s guardian, Moosa is careful not to speak much about Akbar, so the child decides to leave for Mumbai to find out for himself. He, thus, gets thrown into the wild town of Kamathipura.
When the narrative starts taking shape in Mumbai, we are introduced to a familiar crop of characters that line the underbelly of the city. We meet a drug dealer and child trafficker named ‘Bhai’ (Nivin Pauly), his gang of young boys and a sex worker named Rosy (Shobhita Dhulipala) Bhai kidnaps Mulla and brings him into his house to ‘groom’ him before selling him off.
Nivin Pauly embodies the character of Bhai brilliantly, depicting a physical and emotional transformation throughout the movie. The story centres around him from then on, adding scene after scene of nuance to the story. This is where the film defies all expectations and becomes a story of queer love and its stigma in society.
We are used to seeing same-sex relationships depicted in urban settings. But Moothon breaks that stereotype. It uses the remote location of Lakshadweep to construct scenes that are authentic to its community and people.
Questions of identity and sexual orientation are explored throughout the film and it is a bold move. Especially considering the commercial release of Moothon and a lack of queer characters in mainstream Malayalam cinema.
Unlike many films that explore LGBT lives, this one does not make it a spectacle using a sex scene. It is shown to be as romantic and slow-burning as heterosexual relationships, which I found refreshing.
Every single actor has put their best foot forward in creating magic on our screens. Other than Nivin Pauly, Roshan Mathews has delivered some serious acting chops as the mute Ameer.
The breakout star of the movie would definitely have to be Sanjana Dipu, as Mulla and his undying hope from the very first shot to the very last one.
The film leaves a lot unsaid, especially in the details that have been cleverly explored just enough to incite curiosity and reflection. We are left with many questions at the end, overwhelmed by how symbolic the imagery and the camera-work is. I want to watch Moothon again and again, and peel back unseen layers.
Geetu Mohandas has delivered a piece of work that would stay with me for a long time. She is one of the few women who have managed to break the glass-ceiling in film-making in India.
In an industry notoriously imbalanced in terms of gender, she stands out as an excellent director regardless of her identity as a woman. This year, both Geetu Mohandas and Geetha J (director of Run Kalyani) are set to display their films as the only Malayalam entries to the New York Indian Film Festival.
Picture credits: Still from the movie Moothon
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Writing intern with a passion for gender justice
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