Director: Srikant Murali
Cast: Vasudev, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Mareena Michael, Aju Varghese
There’s whimsy. And there’s WHIMSY. The former is the product of a writer’s fevered imagination, a director’s feather-light execution. The latter is the result of a music director who’s conducting his orchestra not so much with a baton as a machine gun. Keep playing, or else… Aby is a WHIMSICAL film. Quirky music is slathered on it, like a tour guide who won’t stop jabbering and let you take in the sights yourself.
But look past this, and you’ll find charming vignettes woven around a boy who dreams of flying. Aby is something of an autistic savant, and when we first see him (played by a wonderful child actor named Vasudev), he’s in a field, watching dragonflies flit from flower to flower. Overhead, a plane thunders by. In case we missed what these visuals were adding up to, there’s also an eagle. The director, Srikant Murali, is subtle like that. Aby throws his arms wide and begins to run, the way children run when mimicking flight. And his story takes wing.
Aby is a WHIMSICAL film. Quirky music is slathered on it, like a tour guide who won’t stop jabbering and let you take in the sights yourself.
We chart the timeline of Aby’s life through songs and films. AR Rahman’s Chiku buku rayile is the latest hit when Aby is a boy. His father, an insurance salesman, takes him along while soliciting customers. People who say no to the father melt before the son’s cherub face. Dad’s business, too, takes flight.
Later, we see a grown-up Aby in school. He likes Anumol (the lovely Mareena Michael). Kunjootan (Aju Varghese) likes her too. Anumol prefers Aby, even though she knows flying will always remain his first love. Indeed, our first glimpse of Aby as an adult (Vineeth Sreenivasan, laying it on a little thick) is when he’s crossing himself in front of a buzzing mosquito. Anything that flaps its wings 3000 times per second deserves respect – the awe on his face says it all. These episodes paint a laidback portrait of life’s little nothings that we seem to get only in Malayalam cinema. The lack of event itself becomes a form of event.
Around the time Mammootty’s Big B is in theatres, the film takes a steep nosedive. It’s one of the strangest transitions I’ve seen. Pre-interval, Aby is in his village. Now, he’s in Tamil Nadu. How did he get there?
The questions multiply as Aby finds a benefactor in GK (Manish Choudhary), an alcoholic who’s also a flying nut: his company bears the name Sky Blue. The character is all over the place. At one point, he’s smiling indulgently at Aby’s eccentricities. Then, for no apparent reason, he turns angry and tells Aby, “Don’t ever come back here again, you stupid little shit!” Perhaps these mood swings are due to GK quitting alcohol cold turkey (rather, Aby forces him to), but he just isn’t a compelling – or even convincing – character.
These scenes ground the film, and it doesn’t pick up even when Aby returns to his village, after seven years. The pastoral rhythms of the early scenes are lost, and the narrative turns eventful with a vengeance, throwing a number of obstacles in Aby’s way, as he attempts to fulfil his dream of flying. The rah-rah final stretch should have made us leap out of our seats and cheer, but it goes by like a dull chore. The boy with a dream is far more interesting than the man who makes it a reality.
Watch the trailer of Aby here: