Sunday, November 20, 2011

Violin: A Sob... er... Love Story

Director: Sibi Malayil
Cast: Asif Ali, Nithya Menon, Vijayaraghavan, Abhishek
Year: 2011

Violin is basically a tragic love story, with emphasis on "tragic". I have come to expect a minimum quality from Sibi Malayil films, and he delivers in this movie as well. But it leaves you depressed and that's not what you watch a love story for.

Even Romeo and Juliet, the archetype of the tragic love story, is not this depressing. It seems as if the hero and heroine are caught in a state of perpetual misery. Every time they see some hope for happiness, something happens to push them right back over the edge.

Asif Ali plays a village simpleton named Aby who has come to Fort Kochi for a job. He finds lodging at a house where three women -- Angel, Annie, and Mercy -- live without any male protection. The three women are the objects of desire of all the local men. The pimp living across the street is waiting eagerly for the day when financial troubles will force them into prostitution.

Angel (Nithya Menon) is the self-appointed "man of the house". She reacts violently to any look, talk, or act from anyone that might damage their reputation. Angel reminded me of Manju Warrier's character in Kanmadam -- a young woman who sacrifices her youth, hardens her soul, and literally stands as a shield between her family and society's predators.

When Aby moves into their house as a paying guest, Angel is initially hostile. But after hearing Aby play the violin, Angel, who is a talented violinist herself, is instantly smitten. Love blooms, and it's a turning point in the lives of Angel and her aunts, who see Aby as the male protector they so desperately need.

Aby and Angel are both essentially orphans. They both grew up in musical families and are good musicians themselves. A romance between the two is almost inevitable, once they cross a few hurdles. The romance between them is portrayed very naturally.

Asif Ali
Aby is a weak-willed "paavam" type who doesn't have the strength or courage to fight anyone -- although he does muster up some courage in a couple of key scenes. Asif, as Aby, maintains a whiny voice and plaintive look throughout the movie. He also cries frequently. While the "paavam" characterization may have been up to the writers, Asif has a whiny voice in general. While I can understand everybody's haste in declaring Asif the anti-Prithviraj and the hope of Malayalam cinema, I think he still has a long way to go. His dialogue delivery has a lot of room for improvement. But, he's still very likable. I'd pick him over Prithvi any day.

Nithya Menon
She does her job well as Angel, but I just kept feeling that I don't like her -- not the character, but the actor. Nithya comes across as overconfident, and that makes it difficult to identify with her. She shows no vulnerability. When she cried, I felt sad, but only on the surface. However, she is a decent actor, so I expect she'll be around for a while.

Overall, Violin is another watchable movie of the year. If you've got some time to kill and feel like watching a malayalam movie, you may like this.

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