- 2 hr
Mathilukal is a 1990 Malayalam language Indian film directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of India. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, the movie portrays the life of a political activist and writer who gets jailed during the Indian Independence movement. The film stars Mammootty, Thilakan and Karamana Janardanan Nair in lead roles.
The story is set in the early 1940s when India was struggling for independence from British colonial rule. Basheer (Mammootty) is a writer and a political activist who gets arrested and sent to jail for revolutionary activities. During his time in prison, he is confined to a cell shared with other inmates, including a nondescript convict named Gopalan (Thilakan).
With little to no privacy, Basheer and Gopalan become acquaintances, and soon their conversations become more personal, with them discussing their past lives and loves. The story is then narrated through a series of flashbacks that take the viewer through Basheer's love affair with a woman called Narayani (played by Arundhati Nag), whom he meets through letters passed to and from the prison.
The film's centerpiece is its dialogue between Basheer and Gopalan. Both are very different individuals who are incarcerated for different reasons, but their conversations gradually bring out their similarities, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Basheer's love for Narayani is intense and passionate, and it is this which keeps him going through his grueling existence in prison.
The film deals with several themes such as friendship, loneliness, and love in a manner that is both poignant and poetic. The beauty of the movie lies in its portrayal of the human spirit, which survives even in the harshest of circumstances. The jail, though an oppressive place, doesn't break Basheer's spirit, but rather, it opens a window into a world of deep and profound emotion.
Mammootty delivers an outstanding performance, bringing out the nuances of Basheer's character with ease. Thilakan's portrayal of Gopalan is understated yet powerful, adding an extra layer of depth to the film. It is a testament to his talent as an actor that he can evoke sympathy for his character despite playing a criminal.
The film is shot in a minimalistic style, with the focus always on the two characters at the heart of the story. The prison environment is captured in a realistic manner, with dank walls and cramped spaces, which serve as a backdrop for the human drama unfolding on screen.
The movie also has an outstanding soundtrack, composed by the maestro, Ilaiyaraaja, which adds to the melancholic mood of the film. The songs are poetic and soulful, enhancing the emotional impact of the story.
In conclusion, Mathilukal is a beautifully crafted film that is a testament to Adoor Gopalakrishnan's talent as a director. Its characters are raw, real and relatable, and it deals with universal themes such as love, friendship, and survival in a sensitive and emotionally engaging manner. The film's ending, though not unexpected, is still powerful and moving, leaving the viewer with a sense of melancholy and a deep appreciation for the human spirit.