Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil Review: A Fun Modern-Day Priyadarshan Comedy About A Flawed Modern Mallu Family

Basil and Prithviraj have their own chemistry going on, one that feels fresh and rewarding
Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil Review: A Fun Modern-Day Priyadarshan Comedy About A Flawed Modern Mallu Family

Director: Vipin Das

Writer: Deepu Pradeep

Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Basil Joseph, Nikhila Vimal, Anaswara Rajan, Yogi Babu

Duration: 134 mins

Available in: Theatres

It’s only natural to assume a film titled Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil starring Prithviraj to include multiple references from his debut Nandanam (2002), a superhit that used the titular temple as a part of its beating heart. In Vipin Das’ latest film, we find many such references and they connect almost immediately with the viewer, balancing an element of strong nostalgia with even stronger comedy. The director refuses to pull any punches and this bit of extra-textual humour is woven into the screenplay seamlessly, giving you the feeling that the rest of the film was written in retrospect after he stumbled upon these jokes and a madcap ending. 

But you look at the film closely and you find several such elements, each as amusing as the last. Take for instance the idea to cast Jagadish as Prithviraj’s father. On the surface, there’s nothing amusing about it given how the iconic actor recently played Basil Joseph’s father in Falimy (2023). Yet its cleverness only doubles when you realise that actress Rekha is the one playing his wife. Of course, what I’m getting at is how the film is equally dependent on our memory of another Guruvaryoor-based superhit—Grahapravesam (1976). This reference too isn’t a lazy afterthought, because that’s what we hold on to to realise why Rekha’s two brothers have a major issue with her husband in Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil. It is this subplot that gives you the space to add a layer of the Krishna-Kamsa conflict into this comedy even without a backstory. This bit of trickery may also lead to fan theories that suggest that this film could very well be a spiritual sequel to Grahapravesam and the awkward marriage that may have finally led to a happily ever after for Jagadish and Rekha. 

These aren’t the only examples to understand how Vipin is a master at using such references. You find many such ideas even in the way he uses songs such as Azhaigya Laila. What passes off as a throwaway part of one dialogue, is brought back at the most ideal moments, underlining the joke each time it appears. And how about the way he has used ‘Kannan Thumbi Porame’ from Kamal’s Kakkothikkavile Appooppan Thaadikal (1988)? It takes a special comedic brain to use a song about long-lost sisters and to reimagine it in a sequence that brings together two brothers-in-law for the first time.

These are the ideas that keep Guruvayoor Ambalanadayil going even as it traverses through predictable Priyadarshan-esque territory. It explores an excellent idea for such a comedy with one particularly important detail that often seems to have been left behind when a marriage gets fixed. The relationship between the two brothers-in-law too seems to brim with solid comedic fire power given how quickly we reach the end of the first half. Basil and Prithviraj have their own chemistry going on, one that feels fresh and rewarding and a casting coup that just keeps giving. 

Yet it’s this very chemistry we begin to miss the moment their characters Vinu and Anandan have a fallout. After the high of the first half, we move into a large portion that feels like a barrage of character introductions. From a distance, you sort of understand the need for this pattern of storytelling for the film to build up to its large, confusing tail-end with as many people wanting Vinu’s marriage to happen as there are people who want to ensure the marriage is called off. This is also where you understand why an all-time great like Priyadarshan keeps emphasising the need for his stellar legion of actors to drive such confusing comedies. 

Which means that the second half works only as long as it's being driven by a crazy character played by a fascinating actor. Some of these, including a friend of Vinu’s with a terrible reputation, keep it moving. But when they’re replaced by half-written characters like that played by an obvious Yogi Babu, the laughs dry up and so does the film’s laugh-per-minute comedic pace.

Of course, it becomes obvious that it’s finally leading up to a big intricate ending by then. It feels like we’re waiting for the film to get there rather than investing in characters and subplots that are merely repeating what others have already established. And when it finally does move into that phase, the jokes return and the madcap energy of the first half remains intact. 

Hidden somewhere beneath its carefree humour is a careful message that works in tandem with the director’s previous feminist comedy Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey (2022). It takes the character of Parvati (Nikhila Vimal) and gets you to sympathise with the comedy cliche of the theppukaari. This is only then reinforced with the importance of how nobody needs to judge a woman’s past, including her husband and her family. The messaging is subtle yet done with enough sensitivity for us to never look at it merely as a tool for jokes. All of this coalesces to give us a wholesome comedy that remains entertaining for the most part with an unmistakable old-world charm you find only in the movies of the late 80s and early 90s. 

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