Malayankunju is a 2022 Malayalam language Indian film starring Fahadh Faasil. It’s about a prickly man who doesn’t get along with others, the trauma that made him that way, and how a natural disaster forces all of this to the surface.
The first act sets up Faasil’s character as a bit of a prick. A character type he’s played before. There’s a reason he is considered one of South India’s best actors as he’s always compelling when he’s on screen. He keeps odd hours, he snaps at others, he keeps to himself, and seems to be at peace the most when he’s alone in him bedroom/workspace, fixing electronics. His neighbor has a baby and, as babies will do, it cries a whole lot and disrupts Faasil’s routine.
As the story in the second act expands, we learn that all of these behaviors and routines of his are carefully constructed defense mechanisms to keep his trauma buried. Which adversely affects his relationships with those around him.
The third act is all over the trailer, synopsis, and art for the film so I don’t mind mentioning it briefly here. Threaded throughout the movie is the weather. As a monsoon or big storm approaches, all of the neighbors, including the family and their baby, are all preparing to evacuate. They want Faasil and his mother to come too. He refuses, as he has continued to do, this act of community. A mud slide sweeps him and his house away, burying him in mud and debris. This marks a shift in the movie. What had been a character study up to this point is now a survival thriller/disaster movie. Because I didn’t go into this movie cold I knew the disaster element was coming. I still said “oh shit” out loud when it did.
The disaster elements are a technical marvel. The close camera work and Faasil clawing through mud and bodies with only a flashlight for narrow illumination was very claustrophobic. As he was trying to figure out which was up (so to speak) the emotions are palpable and the audience feels them. However, because the escape sequence seems to play out in real time and the POV never shifts away from Faasil and his escape, it’s unclear how much time has passed and how this affects some of his decisions. Additionally the score can be a little intrusive at times. For all the positive aspects of the disaster sequence, the human drama and character focused parts of the movie wind up being more interesting.
Malayalam movies continue to impress, even the mixed bag ones. There were enough really good elements in Malayankunju to keep me watching even if some other elements bogged the story down. There’s a 2019 Malayalam movie called Helen that is a very effective survival thriller/horror movie that’s worth keeping an eye out for. Helen was streaming on Prime but doesn’t appear to be any longer.
I watched Malayankunju on Prime and current streaming info can be found at Just Watch.