It has been four months since I watched Moothon and the scenes still remain etched in my mind. Wholesome and tragic, this is one film that genuinely made me want to cry because every character deserved a better life for themselves — they deserved love, they deserved family, they deserved home. Instead, I found people trapped in the lonely cells of their own pasts, unable to move on or forgive themselves for their seemingly pointless existence. Moothon thus becomes the narrative of a search for a home, for a semblance of security and reasons to live for in life.
There’s a certain beauty associated with the tragic fate of a character we root for from the beginning, the unsatisfying end to their journey that was once lit by hope. Moothon beautifully captures the hope and the hopelessness that come with reality, almost in a fantasy-like manner.
Moothon juxtaposes two different timelines. The film begins with Mulla, searching for their brother Akbar and landing up in Mumbai (rather fantastically) in the process. We are introduced to the grim red-light area of Kamathipura where the rules are set by Bhai, who is given quite a mythical build-up. He is almost always either on alcohol or drugs or both, feared by all, the embodiment of the angry goon figure every kid dreads in her dreams. Nobody really knows anything about him until we get to the flashback portion in Lakshadweep, where we see him as Akbar—innocent, hopeful, smiling, nice. The scenes in Lakshadweep are dreamy, almost surreal. We see Akbar in love with Ameer, we see him tender, we see him beautiful. We do not get to see the exact moments when all hope is taken away from him, as the film jerks us back into the reality of Kamathipura in a swift blow.
The juxtaposition of these two timelines is crucial to our understanding of Akbar’s life as well as how it affected Mulla, which will turn both their fates tragic. Having said that, Nivin Pauly’s performance deserves all the praise in the world, because he handles Akbar with delicateness and fierceness, both polar opposites of each other. On the one hand, he gives us the ferocity of a goon figure who seems to have no purpose or happiness in life, while on the other, we see the timid excitement of a young man who can’t stop smiling at the thought of being romantically touched by the man he loves. From someone hostile, Nivin turns Akbar into someone our hearts go out to. It was quite unexpected from someone who usually never ventures out of the comfort zone of the romantic hero.
Moothon is among the few films in Indian mainstream cinema that puts the topics of gender and sexuality to discussion. By traversing the different perspectives on masculinity, the film establishes the idea of love in the least superficial manner — we do not see the lovers kissing, but we are thoroughly made aware of the extent of their intimacy. By using the queer narrative, the film does not stereotype but universalises this intimacy, which is quite admirable. There are no definite labels, everything is fluid, nothing is certain.
Although the second half of the film seems to sag a bit, the gut-wrenching ending puts us in a trail of thought and despair at how unjust life could be. The background music is pure beauty and Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography is meticulous as always. The sequences in Lakshadweep are breath-taking, especially the scene where Akbar and Ameer are swimming in the sea together. Sanjana Dipu, who plays Mulla, has wonderfully portrayed the lost child, in every sense — Mulla struggles with their identity as a girl, as a sister, and as a kid abruptly dumped into the cruel realities of the world. Shashank Arora plays Salim with ease and it is a delight watching him physically act.
The film discerns and handles cultural diversity carefully, crossing geographical borders. The Jeseri dialect, the ritual of Kuthu Ratheeb (which ceased to leave my mind for days), and the crowded streets of Mumbai’s Kamathipura are all dealt with with care and play critical roles in the development of the main characters.
Through Moothon, Geetu Mohandas has written and directed a film that hits one’s soul directly. It is at the same time beautiful and heartbreaking. Many people might call it a dreamy fairytale but the tragedy of this film is that it is rooted in reality.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.