Aami review: Manju Warrier, Tovino shine in this delectable biopic of Kamala Das

If you are one of the many literary lovers of Madhavikutty, this is a film you will like, maybe not love, writes Deepa Antony.

  “One’s real world is not what is outside him. It is the immeasurable world inside him that is real. Only the one who has decided to travel inwards, will realize that his route has no end.”
Kamala Das (My Story)
Whether you know her as Madhavikutty, Kamala Das or Kamala Surayya or even as an amalgamation of all these personas, it goes without saying that the poet-writer-dreamer has been an enigma to her perusers. She, in her playful ‘wild-child’ ways, has always shocked and defied traditionalists- through her life and writings. Hence a biopic, based on Ente Kadha and Neermadalam Pootha Kalam, two of Madhavikutty’s works, both autobiographical in nature, are sure to arouse the literary enthusiasts in Kerala. 
After much hullabaloo around the film- from Vidya Balan’s very public exit from the project, to protests of religious fanatics over issues like the filmmaker’s religion and ‘love-jihad’, Aami has pulled director Kamal through quite a quagmire. However, the end product, the film, is for the literate perusers of Madhavikutty as Kamal takes it for granted that his viewers are admirers of her life as they are admirers of her work. This unsolicited assumption demands you to read at the least either of Madhavikutty’s autobiographies before watching Aami else skip it altogether.
Starting with her childhood at the Nalappatt house in Punnayurkulam and with her parents in Calcutta and then progressing into her adolescence, Aami takes a non-linear trajectory swinging between Madhavikutty’s fantasy and her reality as it goes. Tovino Thomas plays Krishna, Aami’s muse, consort, and lover. He with his enigmatic, lingering smile conveys more than words could possibly can. In Aami, Madhav Das (Murali Gopy) is multi-dimensional character of surprising maturity and finesse. Murali Gopy seamlessly gets under the character’s skin with prudence. However, from the point onwards which Akbar Ali (Anoop Menon), an Urdu poet and singer, enters the story the narrative turns tad bit melodramatic.
As with her writing, there is no saying when the boundary of reality trespasses into fantasy. It must’ve been quite a challenge to enclose the myriad incidents and multi-dimensional characters into a single film. And the strain sticks out like a sore thumb as the story hurries with an anxiety seen in a runner who rushes to finish a race. Resultantly many characters and incidents are left unexplored and unexplained. 
To a lot many, Madhavikutty, the poetess-writer, is still a memory with flesh and blood. And to portray a vibrant and breathing character of such many dimensions is no less a herculean task. And even while patting Manju Warriar on her back for her courage in taking up this challenge, it is unfair from our part to expect her to ‘tame’ the joyful eccentric that was Madhavikutty. However, she tries. But, the hair and makeup department fails to bring Aami alive. Tovino Thomas and his enigmatic smile 
The background score, music and the art direction are all exquisite and deserves a pat on the back for filling each frame with melody and richness from the days of the yore. These factors create an aura of Madhavikutty’s life. 
Aami, as the director Kamal himself agrees, is the film-maker’s version of Ente Kadha. Maybe for that reason Kamal ends up adding far more shades and dimensions to the characters Madhavikutty introduced us to through her writing. But the real essence of Aami as we know it evades the narrative because of the complex and hurried storytelling. However, if you are one of the many literary lovers of Madhavikutty, this is a film you will like, maybe not love.

reviewed byDeepa Antony

12 Feb 2018 | 12:04 PM

  • directed by
  • Kamal
  • Starring
  • Manju Warrier
  • Tovino Thomas
  • Anoop Menon
  • Murali Gopy
  • Genres
  • Biographical