Malayalam Reviews

The Great Father Review: A Stylish Mammootty Tries To Save A Drowning Film

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Review of The Great Father, Starring Mammootty

Haneef Adeni’s directorial debut The Great Father has leather jackets and sunglasses in pivotal roles. In the backdrop lies a story that is worth telling. But the focus is constantly drawn away by the aforementioned things. And how suave its lead man, the megastar Mammootty looks when he wears them. 

The Great Father is as much in awe of Mammootty as its target audience – the young fans – are. A lot is said about his invincibility and good looks. Even the sophistication with which he smokes a cigarette gets a special mention.

That desperation with which the film tries to highlight Mammootty’s ageless swagger and charm is what pulls it down.

***

The story revolves around a series of rapes and murders in the city. A paedophile and serial killer, who goes by the name of ‘Joker’, is running loose. He murders young girls and leaves their mutilated bodies in swamps, meadows, and tunnels. A special investigation team, led by an intelligent, though insensitive young police officer Andrews Eappen (Arya), is on the case. It’s a situation akin to Memories Of A Murder. 

The story takes a turn when Joker fails to kill one of his rape victims, Sarah (Anikha). She happens to be the daughter of David Ninan (Mammootty), an alleged former–mafia kingpin. David goes all out to find and kill Joker.

***

The film begins with Sarah telling her wide-eyed schoolmates about her dad’s exploits in Mumbai. The sequence is badly written and looks contrived. In one scene, Sarah proudly walks into the classroom with a pistol in hand. Just to convince the non-believers of David’s violent past. 

Sarah’s relationship with David is portrayed more as one of hero worship than a regular father-daughter one. He’s the man who makes her a star among her friends. He’s the man who will protect her from all evils.

Although she is central to the film’s plot, Sarah is treated as an instrument to build up David’s image. Jeethu Joseph’s 2012 blockbuster Drishyam had a similar narrative structure – A first half devoted entirely to the protagonist’s family life, and a second half where he turns into a guardian of the women in the family.

But the writing was far more believable.

At home, Mohanlal’s Georgekutty was a normal family man who discussed his daughters’ school and the household budget at the breakfast table. His heroism was rooted in the way he steered his family out of a crisis. 

In The Great Father, even the crisis – the rape of Sarah David – is a ploy to bring to life the daredevil underworld don that David really is. 

***

For the most part, we see Mammootty driving his MUV around, delivering punch dialogues, and beating villains to pulp in style. Oddly enough, there is no sense of urgency or sensitivity in his actions. During the course of his hunt for Joker, there are other little girls who are kidnapped and killed. Meanwhile, the police officer Andrews Eappen emotionally tortures Sarah just to gratify his ego.

The film, fixated on David’s self-styled investigation, doesn’t build on these points.

Andrews is one of the most patchy characters in a film that has characters aplenty. He is evidently a sadist who would torture the weakest person in the room to show that he is the boss. Although portrayed as an opportunist with no sense of morality, the film makes a hero out of him; perhaps because of the star who plays the character. Andrews draws applause when he mercilessly beats up a pedophile, and later, when he sides with David in his fight.

In fact, under the guise of speaking for women, the film sings praises of male machismo – Something the star-vehicles are known for doing to perfection.

***

The film has a cinematography and background score that jarringly vie for attention. While the camera uses a lot of dramatic slow-mo shots (of falling rain, for instance), the overbearing background score tries to convince you that this is Columbia and David is as lethal as Pablo.

Sneha, who plays David’s wife, is largely ignored by both, the film and by the characters in the film. Malavika Mohanan, who will be starring in Iranian auteur Majid Majidi’s next film, plays Meera, Arya’s assistant. Four years ago, her debut movie Pattam Pole had clumsy body-language and bad dubbing – it’s all the more striking in this film.

Then again, a movie only gets the actor it deserves. 

***

In fairness, The Great Father has one heartwarming moment that stands out of the mess. “If you think a woman loses everything when she loses her virginity or when she is raped, you are so wrong, mister,” Doctor Susan (Mia George) tells Andrews when he asks her for details of the rape victims. There is so much conviction in that one line’s delivery.

Most of all, the film is reminiscent of the sad paradox that Mammootty’s acting career is. In Manivathoorile Aayiram Sivarathrikal, which was released 29 years ago, Mammootty played a gloomy widower, father to a 13-year-old girl. He performed effortlessly, with grey hair and tired eyes. Even his body language had a shade of love and melancholy. 

Now, 65-year-old Mammootty’s David Ninan is an awkward and sketchy portrait. He looks like someone who would rather take a puff and ride away to the mountains on his Royal Enfield than attend his daughter’s parent-teachers’ meeting at school.

Unsurprisingly, The Great Father is a film that caters only to those of his fans who worship him as a style icon.

*****

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