With the plethora of glitzy star-studded award shows prevalent in the Malayalam industry, one can forgive the Kerala State Awards jury for opting to reward smaller independent titles with the "Best Film" award in recent years, despite the presence of several hard-hitting mainstream projects. While 2020's The Great Indian Kitchen was a rare exception where an indie film got mainstream recognition and won the Best Film award as well, 2019's winner Vasanthi and now, 2021's awardee Aavasavyuham are relatively unheralded, artsy ventures that deserve our attention, despite not getting theatre releases.
The Krishand directorial follows a Rashomon-style narrative where we are taken through the life of a mysterious fisherman Joy through the perspective of the various people who knew him. Whether it's his original benefactor Kochuraman (MD Rajmohan), his ex-love interest Lissy (an excellent Nileen Sandra) or his arch-nemesis Murali (a hilarious Sreenath Babu), the accounts are put together with smart intercuts to paint a vivid portrayal of a man everyone agrees was quirky and weird, but still had a magnetic personality and a strange connection with the backwaters.
Rahul Rajagopal, most famous for his appearances in several videos on the Karikku's (a digital media platform) videos, is captivating as the much-discussed Joy. Rajagopal uses his body language and expressive eyes to portray the complicated character with requisite gravitas and effectiveness. The intrepid filmmaker in Krishand throws convention to the wind, delving deep into multiple social, cultural and environmental issues and weaving them into the storyline at junctures you least expect these themes to come in. The casting is spot on at every point, with Nikhil Prabhakar as Plank, Ajayghosh as Constable Valsan and Zhins Shan as Susheelan Vava putting in impressive shifts alongside the primary characters mentioned earlier.
The film is at its best when it seamless blends genres, from dark humour and social commentary to even fantasy and sci-fi, all the while ensuring to put out scathing critiques of the current status quo, be it the environmentally delicate situation in island habitats like Puthuvypin or the still unresolved issues involving police brutality and custodial deaths in Kerala. The mockumentary style storytelling becomes especially exhilarating when the victim's testimonies are shown to be in direct contrast to the actual events, smoothly integrating more shades to the characters as the story progresses.
Aavasavyuham is a strikingly original piece on environmental conservation and the need for maintaining bio-diversity. It is told with a unique narrative style that may not be immersive at all times, but is definitely contemplative and thought-provoking. Aavasavyuham is a mould-breaking venture that shows there is still a place for radically innovative ideation in filmmaking, especially in an industry that is as technically proficient as Malayalam. The 2021 Kerala State Award for Best Film (2021) lives up to its billing and deserves to be mentioned alongside mainstream Malayalam masterpieces of the same year like Joji, Bhoothakaalam and Nayattu.
The film is available on Sony Liv.