What the audience saw today on screen was definitely not Madhavikutty. And so says the Director before the opening credits- ‘fictional’ portrayal..! -a very convenient word to excuse the misrepresentation. The film Aami ended up as a whitewashing of the writer’s image which, according to the director, badly needed a repairing.
Cast: Manju Warrier, Murali Gopy, Tovino Thomas, Neelanjana, Anoop Menon
The opening credits were very conventional. It showed some old pictures of Madhavikutty in the chronological order of her life and its events. That was only an indicator to the coming ‘soap opera’. The flashback starts from a hospital room and I must say that Manju Warrier does full justice to the character in the full length of the film. The persona of the writer that is immediately perceived by a viewer who hasn’t read her can be of a day dreamer. She fantasizes a world around her with young and sweet talking men- Lord Krishna remains the most important among them. Tovino’s Krishna role was very sober and less playful unlike the other romantic incarnations of Krishna in the Malayalam films before.
The film is too passive on the feminism and politics of Madhavikutty’s writing and the reach of her words into a global level. Madhavikutty aka Kamala Das in Aami is someone else; a moon struck woman, an unstable wife, a foolish lover and an impulsive person. When the first half ends with a scene where Madhavikutty rebukes a fan who blindly imitates her, ironically, for a moment she is a hypocrite- a word she uses to describe the pseudo morality of Malayalees. And the great writer persona is reduced to a petty middle class Malayali wife’s.
The characters of the film were forged in a very diplomatic air- the homosexuality, the bed room scenes (which became the ‘talk of the town’ in social media recently), and the blunt mentioning of menopause and sex- everything except a few paintings on the wall were veiled perfectly to suit the priggish palate of an average Malayalee. The narration sometimes slips into a tedious monologue. What felt most insufferable was the wrinkled face of the actress to play the old age of Kamala Surayya. The face was terrible; it looked too dead to play the emotions especially when the writer’s heart gets broken as her own people revolting against her. What probably caused the overdoing of the face was the technical difficulty of wearing a hijab. Anyway, that was the last nail on the coffin of the zombified presentation of the real writer. Kamal’s Aami didn’t succeed to show that woman who had such passion for love and youth. Aami is terrified each time she looks at her own reflection. Perhaps this was the most honest scene in the film, and also the little sparrow which becomes a bloody shower in the hospital room.
The image and the intention were very clear. It was a diplomatic and secular white washing. By giving a clean chit to the writer’s life (and perhaps to his own image), the director failed to see that not all audience were unaware of the fact that she wrote many of the things from imagination as well as fantasy. The film maker’s perspective was occasionally narrowed into a peeping Tom’s in a few scenes. When Kamala das is seen embracing the dead body of her husband, she is only just a Heathcliff remake went wrong. One doesn’t feel the intensity of the scene even with the sad violin played in the background. In the part of Akbar Ali, Kamala’s picture etched as an impulsive and foolish woman is complete.
The songs were very beautiful and the fresh face Neelanjana did a great job as the teenager Kamala. Murali Gopy was, in every inch, the insensible and rough husband. If one can watch Kamal’s Aami by completely detaching the image of ‘our’ Madhavikutty (as impossible as it may be) perhaps the film can rise above from being a mediocre biopic.