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‘Bramayugam’ Review: Mammootty Steals the Show in Monochrome ‘Illam’ Horror

Bramayugam will be remembered for the exceptional performance of Mammootty, who time and again, has proven he is unstoppable.

Bramayugam

Thevan, a persecuted lower-caste folk singer fleeing slave traders in British-era Kerala, ends up at the gateway of a dilapidated Brahmin mansion (Illam). He soon finds out that he cannot leave easily. The synopsis of ‘Bhoothakaalam’ filmmaker Rahul Sadasivan’s latest, Bramayugam, can be summed up like this.

Arjun Ashokan, undoubtedly the lead protagonist, plays the role of Thevan, a weak, lower-caste singer tired of hunger, thrown into a labyrinthine mess. Meanwhile, Mammootty, the showstopper, is the soul of the film; he effortlessly plays the role of the mysterious Kunjamon Potti. Sidharth Bharathan, who wears a wry and exhausted look, completes the plot. Sidharth’s character is the cook and showrunner for Potti, who is easily irked, annoyed, and is often unforgiving. Horror or supernatural themes in Malayalam have their roots in traditional folk tales. They often concentrate on the dominant caste, the Brahmins. These stories, of knowledge-hungry Brahmin sorcerers crossing into the ‘dark side,’ enslaving the dark forces to dominate others, have long been a part of Kerala’s traditional folk tales. Bramayugam too was inspired by such a fictitious story. It’s interesting to note that fantasy novelist T.D Ramakrishnan is also credited as a co-writer along with director Rahul Sadasivan.

Bramayugam

Bramayugam unravels in a fable-like sequence, weaving a tale of things that went wrong for an affluent Brahmin Illam, and how it perished in Bramayugam, the age of sadness, where gods no longer hear the prayers or save the persecuted. Time is warped, encapsulated, and used as a pawn by the powerful. In that sense, Bramayugam is also an allegory of the times we live. The powerful entraps the weak, forcing the poor to accept it as fate. The story can also be interpreted as a struggle against the caste system in Kerala. For Thevan, who longs to meet his mother in his beloved village, Potti’s Illam is a maze. Don’t you remember the iconic lines from the Eagles’ song Hotel California? Yes, it goes like this: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. The dialogs and vivid descriptions of the schemes instantly transported me to that song. For those suffering, Bramayugam is an era of brooding darkness that blinds memory and sanity.

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Mammootty is exceptional in his measured approach towards the character. His dialog delivery is fine, keeping the pauses intact, expressions on point, and the devilish charm radiating on every close-up frame, whether he is smiling wryly or shaking with wrath. The role seems to be written for Mammootty, who aced the nuances easily.

Bramayugam

The omnipresent monochrome color tone is the next best character. It elevates the primal feelings and holds the nervous energy throughout the movie. The cinematography nicely complements the story, giving an immersive feeling. The background score is neatly done but is underwhelming. As the director shies away from using jump scares and other horror-film clichés, the music doesn’t take its mandatory pauses and nerve-racking suspense crescendos, leaving us to enjoy the darkness in the frames. Rahul Sadasivan was able to carefully build suspense and keep the audience glued to their seats until the first half, but after the intermission, the story slowly lost steam.

Suddenly, the tepid elements start to creep in, taking the movie into an all-too-familiar territory. The direction Sidharth Bharatan’s character heading in the second half felt half-baked and worn-out. In the climax too, the film felt a bit clumsy. The lack of depth and the forced writing to invent something new without proper structure were evident with a clichéd redemption story. Bramayugam may have been heavily influenced by the classics like Bergman’s The Seventh Seal – it borrows the concept of a board game played between the evil and the innocent. Another notable coincidence is the very concept of the ring that corrupts from the Lord of the Rings. The film closes with an open-ended, ambiguous shift, giving the impression that Bramayugam continues to spiral.

Bramayugam will be remembered for the exceptional performance of Mammootty, who time and again, has proven he is unstoppable. This film had the calibre to be a trendsetter with its luring fearlessness in the first half. With a more solid script and deep character arcs, Bramayugam could have easily become a template for convention-breaking thought. But its forced writing and underwhelming final act bar it from becoming an instant classic.

Bramayugam
‘Bramayugam’ Review: Mammootty Steals the Show in Monochrome ‘Illam’ Horror
3.5

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