During the incipient stages of the film, we see an aerial shot of a part of the Lakshadweep Islands which is a curved peninsular piece of land. This eerily carries an uncanny resemblance to the world-famous Marine Drive in Mumbai which is also curved and has tall skyscrapers that substitute the palm trees in the Lakshadweep. This feels like an indication that we’ll be witnessing the streets of Mumbai in a while.
This is the second directorial venture of Geetu Mohandas after the very subtle and thought-provoking Liar’s Dice. While that film didn’t have the trappings of any form of commercialism, this film has quite a few. Nivin Pauly is introduced to the audience with a slow-motion shot and the cinematographer, Rajeev Ravi, goes all-out by toying around with the lighting and camera movements during the introduction shots.
A boy goes in search of his long-lost brother to Mumbai only for both of them to find shocking facts about each other. The story is set on the above premise and keeps you hooked till the end credits.
There are a few brilliant scenes in the film which reek of international cinema. That underwater shot in which a mermaid saves Mulla, played by Sanjana Dipu. She played her character with so much ease that she overshadowed even Nivin Pauly in a few scenes in which they were together. Her character goes through so much pain, misery, and agony that it’s heart-wrecking, to say the least. If you’re someone who deeply empathizes with pain, brace yourself to shed a tear or two in the theatre.
I don’t even want to give the slightest of spoilers as the script doesn’t ‘deserve’ one. No wonder Geetu Mohandas’s script won the Global Filmmaking Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Moothon has a tight script with so many layers and can be interpreted in a number of ways. These two attributes are one of the many hallmarks of a great script/story.
The story is set in South Mumbai and we don’t see the glamorous life downtown. Geetu Mohandas doesn’t indulge in showing the sky-high buildings or posh areas like Breach Candy or Malabar Hill. That is not the Bombay required for the story. An immature crew would’ve shot a song with the lead pair having the Gateway of India as the backdrop. The story is fixated upon Kamathipura which is adorned (Yes, they do look beautiful) with narrow lanes, rustic locales and passage-like houses. There is a flashback sequence in the picturesque Lakshadweep Islands too.
The last time I saw Sobhita Dhulipala on screen was when she played the role of a rich South Delhi lady in Made in Heaven. Shashank Arora also played an upper-middle-class photographer in the same web series. If their performances are still registered in your brain, get ready to be startled by their costumes, accent, dialogues and their portrayal of ghetto-dwellers in South Bombay (not an oxymoron). These two actors give us a very original and convincing performance. Not for once are we reminded of the royal Tara Khanna or Kabir Basrai.
Nivin Pauly’s performance as Akbar/Bhai is very different from his previous set of films and we get to watch his emoting range as he performs. Roshan Mathew plays Ameer who is one of the very important characters in the film. He plays a mute and communicates with all characters using the sign language. His facial expressions are on point and you can easily decipher his dialogues. The chemistry shared between Akbar and Ameer doesn’t feel forced.
While there are not many negatives about the film, I personally felt some scenes were shot under very minimal lighting conditions. I respect the cinematographer for making us experience the movie like a fly on the wall but some scenes during the flashback didn’t work for me at all. It looks like over-compensating authenticity by bringing down the viewing experience isn’t worth it.
Overall, Moothon is an emotional rollercoaster on which a ride is compulsory if you like poignant and original stories crafted into an art-house film.