Despite banking on familiar superhero tropes, Basil Joseph and Tovino Thomas ensure that their film has a character of its own
Jaison alias ‘Minnal’ Murali has American dreams just like many other youngsters of his age in the early 1990s, but he hardly ever steps out of his native Kurukkanmoola village. It is almost a self-contained world and despite his dreams of making it big abroad, his concerns are mostly related to the land that he belongs to. Unlike the American superheroes, who have on their shoulders the burden to save the entire country or even the planet, ‘Minnal’ Murali’s responsibilities are much smaller, but no less important.
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In one of the early scenes, Jaison’s (Tovino Thomas) nephew Josemon (Vasisht Umesh) gives a crash course on superheroes to his uncle, who is unaware of them. “It seems America survives because of them,” Josemon says, in a jibe at some of the oft-repeated superhero storylines that also reveals the line of thinking from the makers here. Yet, director Basil Joseph is not averse to drawing inspiration from some of these usual superhero film tropes, even as he firmly places ‘Minnal’ Murali in the local context. The leap of ambition that Basil takes in his third film is certainly much more than that was required of him in his first two projects.
- Director: Basil Joseph
- Cast: Tovino Thomas, Guru Somasundaram, Vasisht Umesh, Femina George
- Duration: 158 minutes
- Storyline: A tailor gains special powers after being struck by lightning, but must take down an unexpected foe if he is to become the superhero his hometown needs
Writers Arun Anirudhan and Justin Mathew give Murali a solid backstory. Jaison, a tailor who dreams of a better life in the US, is down and out, when the seminal event that changes the course of his life — as well as that of the village — happens. The bolt of lightning that strikes the village gives superpowers to not just Minnal Murali. As in other superhero movies, there is bound to be an adversary with equally crazy powers to challenge him, but here the adversary also gets an empathetic treatment, until the time he turns fully unhinged and destructive.
Even when he gets these powers, Murali takes time to get used to it, experimenting with the extent of his powers and testing its limits, from playing around secretly with all the vessels stolen from the kitchen, to attempting to fly from a tree. The best of the superhero sequences are these initial ones and the one where he lets go at some policemen, successfully imbibing the spirit and appearance of the good old Malayalam comics. However, the climactic sequences appear slightly underwhelming, despite its aspirations and scale.
The early ‘90s setting also lends itself to nostalgia-inducing references from that era, be it the fashion of those times or the introduction of the real-life actor Sudheesh, fresh from his success in Manichthirathazhu, in a key sequence. Basil, who has proved his capability to handle humour both in front of and behind the camera, treats a good part of the movie in a fairly lighter mood; Jaison’s chemistry with his nephew happens to be one of the highlights in these sequences. Biji (Femina George), who runs a karate institute and a travel agency, proves to be an important sidekick for Murali, with the script thankfully staying away from exploring the romantic angle further.
Any assessment of Minnal Murali or comparison with Hollywood superheroes has to be done keeping in mind the budgetary limitations of the regional industry. Despite banking on familiar superhero tropes at times, the film has a character of its own, and it remains to be seen where Basil Joseph will go with this, if he has a franchise in his mind.
Minnal Murali is currently streaming on Netflix
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