Dhyan Sreenivasan played a dimwitted youngster named Laalu in Kunjiramayanam, director Basil Joseph’s debut film. Laalu would grin from ear to ear in the most inappropriate situations, and falls in love with every girl who paid him some attention. Basil’s second film, Godha, is a cinematic version of Laalu. When the situation calls for some wit and reasoning, it cracks the lamest jokes. It displays a peculiar talent to reduce even the gravest case into a pool of silly mess. Godha handles the potential subject in its hand like how Laalu handles his relationships.
Actress Wamiqa Gabbi plays Aditi Singh, a young and ambitious wrestler from Punjab, in Godha. Some 40 minutes into the film, she is in a Kerala village, training under a veteran wrestler, Captain (Ranji Panikker) who is determined to turn her into a champion. You see her running through the village lanes and paddy fields, as all the men in the village stand gaping at her. There is a song in the sequence with lyrics that go, “Her body is to die for” and “She is quite belligerent, but she has a pretty face.” For anyone who had thought Godha is a sports-drama, as its title might suggest, here is Basil Joseph clearing the air for once and confirming that it is nothing but a pervert drama. A woman is put in the centre of narration so that the film can pass loud remarks at her, drool over her body, fair complexion and almond eyes, and reduce this athlete into an eye-candy.
There is some crisis in the background. Like any woman from an ordinary middle-class Indian family, Singh is waging a tiring war against her own family members to realise her dreams to make big in the field of sports. In the village, a group of veteran wrestlers, led by Captain, is struggling to stay relevant at an age when all the youngsters around them are busy watching cricket matches on television and occasionally, playing gully cricket. Alongside, there is also a decently-done coming-of-age tale of a loafer, Aanjaneya Das (Tovino Thomas), who discovers an aim in life.
However, the film’s real ambitions lie elsewhere. For the most part, it is a comedy woven around Singh’s presence in this sexually frustrated Malayalee village. Worse still, the jokes it cracks fit only in an amateur high-school skit.
The film begins as Aditi’s story. A daughter of a wrestler in rural Punjab, she trains under her very supportive father to be the village’s only woman wrestler. However, her victory run is cut short as her stern brother takes charge of the family after her father’s death. She befriends Aanjaneya Das, an unexceptional young man who lands in a Punjab university for higher studies. To escape from marrying a man her brother chose for her, Singh runs away to Das’ native village, and there, his father, Captain, takes her under his wings.
There is a curious scene in the initial portion of the film, right after Das’s first encounter with Aditi. She barely knows him, and already treats him with disdain. But the romantically deprived Das is smitten. After watching her fighting at a wrestling match in the college, he tells her something that roughly translates to, “That’s so not how you land after delivering a punch. You should have done this instead of doing that.” She is instantly impressed.
That this guy, who quit the wrestling ring in his early teenage, knows the game better than Singh, a staunch professional, is bizarre, but not surprising for anyone who understands how much popular cinema loves mansplaining. The film handles this woman like a delicate child who needs attention, protection, and guidance from men. Rename her as Hansika Motwani and you get a mini-thesis on what helps north-Indian women win Kollywood over.
In Godha, Singh hardly has to make an effort to impress the people in her new surroundings. There aren’t enough shots and scenes that back her claims of being a talented wrestler. But everything magically turns in her favour, for this shorthand that Basil employs – Fair skin and good looks. Her biggest professional rival is Pinto, a Delhiite whom the film treats bitterly. Compared to Singh, Pinto is a plain Jane (brown skin and average built). It’s easily a black and white situation for the audience to decide whom to root for. According to the film, Pinto is a cunning schemer in the wrestling ring (Oh, such a sin!) and Aditi, the good woman who deserves to win every match that she is in.
However, Godha bears some silver-linings. The neatly written character arc of Das, for one, is laudable. It’s understandable why Das is the way he is, and why he wants to be different. It’s heartening that he decides to walk away and work hard when Aditi spurns his romantic advances, instead of screaming at her about his bruised masculine pride. Also, there is Parvathy playing Captain’s wife, a no-nonsense and gutsy woman with some fine sense of humour. Her spirited performance makes the film a little brighter.
Of every feeble element in the film, cinematographer Vishnu Sharma’s camera is the weakest one. It’s shaky and clumsy. The colours are inconsistent. The indoors are lit up like it’s a theater play. Shaan Rahman’s music evokes a lot of déjà vu. For one, the song ‘Wow‘ bears uncanny resemblance to Thattathin Marayathu‘s Muthuchippy Poloru.
Among the actors, Wamiqa’s performance stands out. She has got the right looks, and plays her part with aplomb. Ranji Panikker’s portrayal of the angry old wrestler is neat yet unintentionally funny, for the character is patchily written. Tovino Thomas has improved immensely as an actor. He convincingly portrays the simpleton villager who is clueless about life.
Nevertheless, for Malayalam cinema, Godha is an opportunity wasted. It could have been a gripping sports drama, a poignant relationship drama or at least, a sensible slapstick comedy. But Basil’s decision to revel in mediocrity pulls down the film to a superficial and forgettable commercial flick that stays loyal to nothing.
The Godha review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.