It shouldn’t have taken over 15 minutes for director Ajai Vasudev to arrive on the plotline of his latest film, an oddly named Masterpiece starring Mammootty in the lead role. It is an unabashedly masala movie set inside a college campus where students and teachers are almost never seen doing anything remotely connected to education. Every known stereotype in Malayalam cinema has been used to portray the campus which looks more cosmetic than Mammootty’s face that resembles a humanoid. There is no moment of good acting or a humour worth celebrating. The technical and art departments are plain, and the background score is loud enough to stop you from nodding off or drifting away into day dream.
Masterpiece is the kind of movie that makes you question your decision making abilities because you just spent two and half hours of your life inside the movie hall watching an unreasonable show of insanity.
The actor who looks most detached of all, is Mammootty on whom the film is shouldered. His character, Edward Livingston, is a young energetic assistant professor of English at a college where actor Mukesh is a grey-haired vice-principal. Eddie arrives on the screen around the interval time, and without wasting a moment, gets into his business of delivering punch dialogues with a face that does not betray an expression other than smirk and scorn, and beating up goons who bounce off the floor like rubber balls. He delivers sermons that melt away rivalries between students, and steals the heart of the college heartthrob, a professor (Poonam Bajwa) who is famous for flaunting her mid-riff in chiffon sarees. Every once in a while, one of the supporting characters cheer him for his bravery or exclaim over his good looks. Yet, Mammootty remains as cold as an iceberg. For one, look at the scene where Poonam Bajwa subtly expresses her love for Edward. He smiles at her solemnly, with the dignity of a priest, tells her something about the human heart having four chambers, and walks away. The woman smiles back, perhaps in contentment that she could finally utter a dialogue in a film where she is treated like a mannequin.
The college in Masterpiece doesn’t look like a college. The students don’t look like students, and the staff – especially Poonam Bajwa in those wavy translucent sarees and gaudy make-up – don’t look like teachers. Everything looks clumsily and lazily set up. A little while into the film, a girl is raped and murdered inside the campus. Subsequently, a male student is found hanging from a roof. However, these two incidents barely have any impact on the campus. It is treated sans any logic or sensitivity. The students who are in the police list of suspects continue to fool around inside classrooms, hostels and canteens, as if nothing has happened. Dialogues range from silly to crass, and scenes are inaner than any high-school dramas can ever be.
Perhaps to vindicate Mammootty of doing a film like Kasaba or to ridicule the feminists who have slammed it heavily, Masterpiece has Mammootty reiterating the line, “I respect women”. He says it with so much arrogance that qualifies it to be a punch dialogue. Varalakshmi Sarathkumar plays a police officer who is on loggerheads with Edward. Her character is designed on the lines of all woman police officers in Malayalam cinema. She is haughty, and doesn’t show any respect to the hero who is smarter than her. Another woman in the film is Lena who plays a minister. She gets two brief scenes, and one barely audible dialogue. One needs to make quite an effort to spot the female students on Masterpiece’s college campus. They are there, somewhere in the crowd, hiding behind their male classmates who dance, drink and solve crimes with Eddie.
The complacency that has gone into the making of Masterpiece is stomach-churning. The blame, by far, lies on Mammootty, the larger-than-life star whose humongous fan base is what motivates insipid filmmakers like Ajai Vasudev and writers like Udaya Krishna to dish out one distasteful potboiler after another. After building up a robust acting career and a superstar status by collaborating with auteurs such as Aravindan, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, KG George and IV Sasi for many years, Mammootty is now involved in creating a rather dangerous stream of films in Malayalam that passes racism, sexism and insensitivity for humour, and celebrates the lack of intelligence. Masterpiece has a song number, “Wake up, you gotta wake up now“. Now, would Mammootty ever wake up and smell the coffee?
The Masterpiece 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.