This movie left me feeling so rejuvenated! So much that I could totally relate when Malini (Anu Sithara) says, early on in the film, that entering the Edenthottam (Eden’s Garden) feels refreshing. Don’t go by the title. Because this tale is more Malini’s than Raman’s (Kunchako Boban).
Malini and Elvis (Joju George) have been married for about twelve years. Elvis is a film producer who has more flops than hits to his name. A womanizer and a drunkard, he has no qualms about sleeping around with other women. He claims that he’d accept it even if his wife does the same (which is, of course, proved wrong later). Things change for Malini when the family goes for a vacation to Edenthottam with friends. She meets Raman, Vermaji (Ramesh Pisharody) and others who bring her face to face with the mundane life she leads, and aid her in finding herself again. And in that process, a bond develops between Raman and Malini.
What makes this movie different from the others which dealt with similar themes of a woman finding herself is that here Malini actually breaks free, unlike Nirupama in How Old Are You or Shashi in English Vinglish. But at the same time, she’s not given a husband as outwardly dreadful as Rajkumar Rao in Hamari Adhuri Kahani. There’s a nice line said by Raman in the film – “A good father can also be a terrible husband, right?” Instead of making Elvis a bad man in the overall sense, the film focuses on how he’s a bad husband. And why Malini needs to escape this relationship.
Elvis isn’t shown as someone who abuses Malini physically. It’s mainly the mental torture she receives from him that is highlighted. Like the embarrassment she faces when he explodes at others after drinking. Like how he keeps putting her down, or joking about her or blaming her for petty issues. Like the pain she experiences every time he cheats on her. Or how he constantly dissuades her at every step. The film tells us how marital problems are not just restricted to domestic violence. Even these seemingly small issues can also scar a person.
Raman, meanwhile is the exact opposite. He’s like the calm after the storm that is Elvis. He encourages her to dare, dream, dance. He introduces her to a world of possibilities that she never knew existed. And what makes it better is that she does the same for him as well. She awakens a part of his that had died along with his wife. It’s not just about him being there for her. It’s about both of them healing each other. While Elvis’ relationship with Malini was more sexual, Raman’s was more on an internal, almost spiritual level.
The performances are wonderful, with Anu Sithara being the show-stealer. She imbues Malini with grace, dignity and subtlety. It’s easy for people to compare Kunchako Boban’s role as similar to his role as Shaheed in Take Off But both the director and the actor work in tandem to let Raman come on his own. Joju George is a revelation as Elvis. He completely nails the role without going overboard.
The supporting characters have a lot of scope, and once again the director and actors work together to make them memorable. There’s Pisharody, the tour guide who’s desperate for love and keeps bragging about his jail time in Dubai. There’s Shatrughnan (Aju Varghese) who keeps writing letters in blood to woo his lover who sees him as just a friend. Then there is Muthumani and Sreejith Ravi as the couple’s friends, who’s teasing and affectionate relationship is contrasted beautifully with that of Elvis and Malini.
Another thing that interested me is how Raman and Elvis seemed to represent urban and country life. Elvis represents urban life, with its obsession with women, wealth and wine. Even his profession, a film producer, has to do with money. Raman, on the other hand, represents country life, with his love for nature, forests and music. Malini, though, is somewhere in between. She’s the physical manifestation of Raman’s pet project – making forests in the city. Elvis’ relationship with Malini is similar to his failing film career, he doesn’t fit into the world of art, which is Malini’s world. But Raman does. But just as Raman doesn’t live in the forests he created in the cities, he doesn’t settle with Malini, his forest. He just checks on her, and she on him. Her airy, spacious dance class is where she truly belongs – not with Elvis, not with Raman. Which is why the climax feels just perfect.
I also love how, even though Raman is her support system, he’s not the one who heroically ‘saves’ her. Malini does everything on her own, leaving home, confronting Elvis with the divorce papers and so on. Raman just happened to be the catalyst, not the reason in itself.
And last but not the least, a big shout out to Bijibal and Madhu Neelakanthan for the beautiful music and fabulous cinematography. The resort literally comes alive in front of us. The songs, three of them, are soothing and melodious.