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Malyalam movie Munnariyippu: A review
A group of worker ants laboriously carry off a dead lizard. In the background, a sombre music plays. As the credits come to an end, the little tableau exits the frame. This is how cinematographer Venu's directorial debut film, 'Munnariyippu' begins.
The opening scene sets the mood for the rest of the film and a discerning viewer immediately intuits that this is not a run-of-the mill movie about a killer who has committed a double homicide. The killer in question is C.K. Raghavan, (Mammootty) an ordinary man who has been in prison for 20 years for killing his wife and the daughter of his employer.

Unlike other prisoners, Raghavan does not wish to be freed. He has never even gone on parole. But he keeps reiterating that he has not killed anyone. This triggers the curiosity of Anjali Arakkal, (Aparna Gopinath), a freelance journalist who makes a living as a ghost writer. While researching for her assignment- ghost writing a police officer's memoirs- Anjali meets Raghavan.

When she happens to read some of the things he has penned in prison, she strikes a journalistic goldmine. The result- an article on the "brains behind bars" who has been languishing in prison for a crime he denies committing. The Kafkaesque connection is noticed by the public and Raghavan becomes a celebrity overnight.

The media picks up the story and Raghavan is forced to leave prison as the prison authorities wish to avoid a controversy. Meanwhile, the world sits up and takes notice of Anjali the journalist. She is wooed by a big publishing house which gives her a contract and a deadline. Her job is to get Raghavan to write a book about his life which she has to translate into English.

Anjali finds a house for Raghavan, arranges for food , and furnishes paper and pens and tells him to start writing his life story and the truth about the murders that had been hidden from the world. But the trouble is that Raghavan is unable to write. As the days pass and the deadline nears, Anjali undergoes a transformation.

From a well-meaning journalist who wishes to help a released convict and in the process make a name for herself, she becomes a tyrannical, obsessed woman who relentlessly pushes Raghavan to write. It is like Raghavan is still a prisoner. Only the jailer has changed. He is told not to go outside or socialize with other people, even the little boy who brings him food.

As the corporate publishing house threatens Anjali with a lawsuit for breach of contract, Anjali becomes desperate. In a telling scene, she lashes out at Raghavan accusing him of laziness and malingering. But Raghavan is still not able to put pen to paper.

Saying anything more about the story would be revealing too much. To understand why Raghavan is unable to write his story one needs to hark back to what he says about the nature of truth during an earlier conversation with Anjali. But the movie is not a mere vehicle for philosophy. It is a scathing comment on the world and times we live in.

A world where people are commodities to be used. A world where capitalism reigns supreme, reducing human beings to cogs in a wheel. A world where big business turns people against people for its own needs. But does the fault always lie with the rich and the powerful? Aren't we complicit in some way too?

Anjali betrays professional ethics, she lies to her mentor and she even finds nothing wrong in exploiting Raghavan in order to achieve professional fame. As her fiance (Prithviraj in a cameo) suggests, she could always walk away if she didn't want to do something unpalatable.

But money and fame are hard to resist. It is the Faustian bargain many of us make to prove to the world that we exist. Freedom is a small price to pay for it. But for the raghavans of this world, no price is too big to pay for the freedom of the human soul.

Finally, Raghavan does write his story, revealing the "hidden truth". And we understand that, in his own way, Raghavan is a revolutionary. And Venu is definitely a director to watch out for.

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