Language: Malayalam

Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery

Cast: Kainakari Thankaraj, Chemban Vinod Jose, Pauly Wilson, Dileesh Pothan

We are with Vavachan Mesthri on his last bus journey back home. We watch him doze off as the duck he is carrying back for his last supper peeps out of the window eying the world one last time. Once home, Vavachan drinks and makes merry with his son Eeshi, fondly remembering the grand funeral he arranged for his own father. Like the foreboding wind we know what is coming next as he staggers out to pee, stoops and talks to an ominous tree. And just like that, while his son is a few feet away making an urgent phonecall, and his wife and daughter-in-law are in the kitchen preparing a mean duck roast, in the midst of performing his favourite childhood memory, a chavittunadakam, Vavachan stumbles and hits his head on the floor. Here begins, Ee. Maa. Yau, a son’s attempts to give his father a grand funeral.

The opening credits of the movie, which won Lijo Jose Pelissery the Kerala state award for Best Director, is displayed on a magnificient frame which shows the burial march line up replete with musicians, clergymen and men carrying a embellished casket. Ee. Maa. Yau is, indeed, a grand burial of the era of superstardom in Malayalam cinema.  

Vavachan and Eeshi could exist anywhere but director Lijo Jose Pellissery and writer PF Mathews make a masterpiece by setting the story in a coastal Christian village of Chellanam (which translates to a place where nobody goes). With its gigantic trees, threatening sea breeze, and the relentless waves crashing on the shore, Chellanam renders a visual agony that is key to the movie’s theme. Darkness is reinforced through a massive power outage that is rarely illuminated when a torch is switched on or a beedi is lit. Shyju Khalid, the cinematographer with little artificial light captures the temperament of the seascape and uses it to underline the torment of the bereaved.

The opening credits of the movie, which won Lijo Jose Pelissery the Kerala state award for Best Director, is displayed on a magnificient frame which shows the burial march line up replete with musicians, clergymen and men carrying a embellished casket. Ee. Maa. Yau is, indeed, a grand burial of the era of superstardom in Malayalam cinema. Chemban Vinod who plays Eeshi is in real life a physiotherapist by profession who made a chance entry into movies with the crime film Nayakan (2010). 

Watching Eeshi bargain at a coffin maker’s store, and following him through a harrowing night as he flits across the town in efforts to keep his promise to his father, and to give him a burial that befits a king, is made all the more heart wrenching because the helplessness and frailness of Eeshi is played to perfection by a sturdy and tall giant of a man.

ALSO READ: BARADWAJ RANGAN’S REVIEW OF ANGAMALY DIARIES 

Then there is Eeshi’s mother, Pennamma, the role which fetched the brilliant Pauly Valsan a state award. She effortlessly sneaks in humour in her wailing. In a memorable scene, she camouflages taunts about dowry at her daughter-in-law’s family in her high pitched singsong voice. Dileesh Pothan, a promising filmmaker himself, makes an appearance as a curious priest who conducts a parallel investigation over rumours that claim that Vavachan was murdered by his son.  

Ee. Maa. Yau snuggly fits into the genre of a satire and even though we would hesitate to call it a comedy, the film has its comic moments. Like when the daughter-in-law borrows a gold chain from the neighbour because the visitors according to her would take notice of a bare neck, when the musician arrives with a cello-taped clarinet churning up a funny noise at key moments, when the daughter’s lover mistakes grief for lust or when the expensive coffin falls apart flinging the corpse sideways. Pelliserry is not new to such dark humour. In Angamaly Diaries, a dead body’s hands and legs had to be broken for him to be accommodated into his coffin.

Ee. Maa. Yau delves into death as experienced by the living and captures not only the morbid humour but also throws light on the barricades created by caste, class and the clergy.

The cinephiles of Kerala have always wanted to time travel to the 70s and 80s because that’s when Padmarajan, G.Aravindan or John Abraham were making their classics. But movies like Ee. Maa. Yau assure us that this is a great time to be alive in Kerala.

Watch the trailer:

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