A hilarious mockumentary that cleverly mixes various genres – The New Indian Express

Express press service

I didn’t see something like this coming. Filmmaker Krishand’s Aavasavyuham made me wonder: isn’t it more taxing to make an experimental multi-genre hybrid film dealing with a myriad of issues than a large-scale, spectacle-focused film? Perspectives on this may vary, but I personally believe that a budget-limited “epic” like this is more difficult to pull off than one where the necessary resources are available in abundance at your disposal.

Now you might wonder why I used ‘epic’ above. I have my own definition of what an epic is. To me, it’s anything with a rich storytelling sensibility, with a wide assortment of colorful characters – basically anything that’s filled to the brim with a truckload of ideas without feeling forced and clumsily added. Aavasavyuham is one.

No Malayalam movie since Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam last year has made me laugh like Aavasavyuham did. Usually, most people perceive movies that have had their festival circuit as one of those “looking paint dry” movies. Aavasavyuham does not fall into this category. It is an extraordinary exception to the norm, just like Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam was.

It comes with the ambition and swagger of any mainstream artist aimed at a wider audience. Aavasavyuham – also titled The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt – should have been a theatrical release, but releasing straight to OTT makes perfect sense. The lack of big names and the somewhat offbeat mockumentary style could have been bothersome factors.

But Aavasavyuham, I think, has all the ingredients that have universal appeal. Writer-director Krishand takes a familiar sci-fi trope — a potential alien/superhero/earth-walking creature — and combines it with tropes that run the gamut of horror (and subgenres) to disaster to fantasy and even gangster drama.

What begins as a simple marriage proposal situation affecting a few characters slowly snowballs into something that captures the attention of an entire state and its various institutions. When the police and the media get involved, it becomes a huge circus-like event. Besides genres, it also combines different narrative approaches. The obscure opening scenes give way to a mockumentary format where each character is an “interviewee” revealing anecdotes about how it all began. (This approach has already been seen in Warren Beatty’s Reds and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar).

I have so many favorite moments, one of which involves a rejected ex-felon’s marriage proposal. Imagine an exchange between the man and his brother on the way to meet the bride’s family. The first asks, “Hey, are you tense?” and the other responds, “Why should I be tense? You meet her. The next exchange goes like this: “I should have dyed my hair.” “You should have taken a bath instead.” It’s a small taste of the general humor of the film. Some of these conversations carry the spirit of Guy Ritchie or Anurag Kashyap. (I hope Krishand does some fun gangster drama one day.)

Things only get funnier from this point on, even when events take on a darker tone. The idea, it seems, is not to feel too attached to the central character, Joy, whose background is unknown. Some believe he is Bengali, while others suspect him of being a terrorist. Meanwhile, another character is referred to as a Maoist. It’s the classic case of assigning any label that comes your way to anyone who dares to mind their own business. It all leads to a tumultuous finale that holds a mirror to the current state of affairs. I was so impressed with how subtly and organically they all fit together. Everything appears in the right place at the right time.

If one had to pick a likeable character, it’s undoubtedly Joy, played with the right degree of shyness, earnestness and fish-out-of-water clumsiness by actor Rahul Rajagopal. At one point, a character reminds us that he has no papers that suggest his identity. He just appeared out of nowhere. Nobody knows where he comes from. When a woman falls in love with him, all hell breaks loose. For some, it doesn’t matter who or what he is once they realize he could be a golden goose. One of my favorite sequences in the film is the story of a dubious businessman (Zhinz Shan) who takes advantage of Joy’s “superpowers”. For a very brief moment, this segment takes on the tone of a mass entertainer.

Aavasavyuham is full of analogies – implicit and explicit; visual and verbal. Cinematographer Vishnu Prabhakar gives parts of it a mysterious feel, which sometimes reminds us of the subject’s “alien” quality when it’s not trying to act like something in our world. Some of the narrative choices start to make more sense on repeat viewing.

I saw Aavasavyuham twice and took more pleasure in its details on the second visit. Go back, time permitting, to the beginning of the movie once it’s finished, and you’ll see some of the visual flourishes become more distinct. In several places, I was like, “Oh, that’s why they did this. Yes, it’s one of those movies that could achieve classic status. Only time will tell.

Rating 4/5

Movie: Aavasavyuham

Director: Krishan

Starring: Rahul Rajagopal, Sreenath Babu, Sreejith Babu, Zhinz Shan

Streaming on: Sony LIV

I didn’t see something like this coming. Filmmaker Krishand’s Aavasavyuham made me wonder: isn’t it more taxing to make an experimental multi-genre hybrid film dealing with a myriad of issues than a large-scale, spectacle-focused film? Perspectives on this may vary, but I personally believe that a budget-limited “epic” like this is more difficult to pull off than one where the necessary resources are available in abundance at your disposal. Now you might wonder why I used ‘epic’ above. I have my own definition of what an epic is. To me, it’s anything with a rich storytelling sensibility, with a wide assortment of colorful characters – basically anything that’s filled to the brim with a truckload of ideas without feeling forced and clumsily added. Aavasavyuham is one. No Malayalam movie since Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam last year has made me laugh like Aavasavyuham did. Usually, most people perceive movies that have had their festival circuit as one of those “looking paint dry” movies. Aavasavyuham does not fall into this category. It is an extraordinary exception to the norm, just like Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam was. It comes with the ambition and swagger of any mainstream artist aimed at a wider audience. Aavasavyuham – also titled The Arbit Documentation of An Amphibian Hunt – should have been a theatrical release, but releasing straight to OTT makes perfect sense. The lack of big names and the somewhat offbeat mockumentary style could have been bothersome factors. But Aavasavyuham, I think, has all the ingredients that have universal appeal. Writer-director Krishand takes a familiar sci-fi trope — a potential alien/superhero/earth-walking creature — and combines it with tropes that run the gamut of horror (and subgenres) to disaster to fantasy and even gangster drama. What begins as a simple marriage proposal situation affecting a few characters slowly snowballs into something that captures the attention of an entire state and its various institutions. When the police and the media get involved, it becomes a huge circus-like event. Besides genres, it also combines different narrative approaches. The obscure opening scenes give way to a mockumentary format where each character is an “interviewee” revealing anecdotes about how it all began. (This approach has already been seen in Warren Beatty’s Reds and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar). I have so many favorite moments, one of which involves a rejected ex-felon’s marriage proposal. Imagine an exchange between the man and his brother on the way to meet the bride’s family. The first asks, “Hey, are you tense?” and the other responds, “Why should I be tense? You meet her. The next exchange goes like this: “I should have dyed my hair.” “You should have taken a bath instead.” It’s a small taste of the general humor of the film. Some of these conversations carry the spirit of Guy Ritchie or Anurag Kashyap. (I hope Krishand does a fun gangster drama one day.) Things only get funnier from this point on, even when events take on a darker tone. The idea, it seems, is not to feel too attached to the central character, Joy, whose background is unknown. Some believe he is Bengali, while others suspect him of being a terrorist. Meanwhile, another character is referred to as a Maoist. It’s the classic case of assigning any label that comes your way to anyone who dares to mind their own business. It all leads to a tumultuous finale that holds a mirror to the current state of affairs. I was so impressed with how subtly and organically they all fit together. Everything appears in the right place at the right time. If one had to pick a likeable character, it’s undoubtedly Joy, played with the right degree of shyness, earnestness and fish-out-of-water clumsiness by actor Rahul Rajagopal. At one point, a character reminds us that he has no papers that suggest his identity. He just appeared out of nowhere. Nobody knows where he comes from. When a woman falls in love with him, all hell breaks loose. For some, it doesn’t matter who or what he is once they realize he could be a golden goose. One of my favorite sequences in the film is the story of a dubious businessman (Zhinz Shan) who takes advantage of Joy’s “superpowers”. For a very brief moment, this segment takes on the tone of a mass entertainer. Aavasavyuham is full of analogies – implicit and explicit; visual and verbal. Cinematographer Vishnu Prabhakar gives parts of it a mysterious feel, which sometimes reminds us of the subject’s “alien” quality when it’s not trying to act like something in our world. Some of the narrative choices start to make more sense on repeat viewing. I saw Aavasavyuham twice and took more pleasure in its details on the second visit. Go back, time permitting, to the beginning of the movie once it’s finished, and you’ll see some of the visual flourishes become more distinct. In several places, I was like, “Oh, that’s why they did this. Yes, it’s one of those movies that could achieve classic status. Only time will tell. Rating 4/5 Film: Aavasavyuham Director: Krishand Cast: Rahul Rajagopal, Sreenath Babu, Sreejith Babu, Zhinz Shan Streaming on: SonyLIV


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